Alan Shearer given a reality check as belowpar Chelsea sink Newcastle

04 April 2009 07:20
The second coming briefly, brightly burned away the gloom which had shrouded St James' Park ever since Kevin Keegan's road to Damascus moment last year. Paeans to Shearer's passion and iron will greeted the prodigal's return. Limp defeat to a sub-par Chelsea proved that belief alone will not be enough.

In Nicky Butt's endless, fierce tackling, in Obafemi Martins' energy and power, there was evidence enough that Shearer has conveyed to his players the urgency of Newcastle's plight, the dire straits that convinced the head to listen to the call of the heart.

 Related ArticlesPremier League actionRound-up: Liverpool leave it late at FulhamPremier League tableLatest standings and statisticsFixtures and resultsMiracles elude ShearerBut by the time goals from Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda had condemned Shearer to a defeat in his first outing and cut Newcastle three points adrift in the relegation zone, it was clear that the club's directionless apathy was only part of the problem. Whatever the names on the payroll suggest, Newcastle are not too good to go down, not too good at all.

Kevin Nolan looks a shadow of the player he was. It is hard to believe Damien Duff, an ineffective substitute, was once one of Chelsea's best players. Michael Owen, admittedly returning from injury, again made Fabio Capello's judgment look sound. The defence is bordering on the shambolic.

For a crowd supposed to be in the throes of joy, the fans were subdued. When Keegan returned, the atmosphere was celebratory. Aside from the first 10 minutes, when every attacking throw-in was greeted with the fervour of a winning goal in a Cup final, wearied cynicism set in.

Shearer's charges gave them precious little to cheer, Martins scuffing their one clear-cut chance of the opening period wide.

Chelsea should have been ahead by that stage anyway, Salomon Kalou weakly heading straight at Steve Harper after Ashley Cole found him 12 yards out and free of the attentions – periodic at best throughout the afternoon – of what passes for Newcastle's defence.

The visitors barely shifted out of second gear and for much of the game gave the impression of a side simply determined not to risk injury ahead of their annual Champions League clash at Anfield. For a side who were not conspicuously trying, though, their supremacy over hosts with Shearer's inspiration supposedly coursing through their veins was embarrassing.

Nicolas Anelka wasted the best chance of the first half, racing on to Lampard's through ball, holding off Habib Beye but finding only the side netting.

Guus Hiddink's side are hardly football's great romantics. He admitted their plan was to drain the spirit from the crowd and then from the team. Once jubilation had been replaced by dread, they went about their business of spoiling the occasion with ruthless efficiency.

Malouda shot straight at Harper and Anelka should have done better than a weak header after more good work from his French international team-mate before the two combined to allow Lampard to put the hosts out of their misery. Malouda closed down Fabricio Coloccini, the ball ran to Anelka, his chip came back off the bar and the England man was on hand to roll the ball home.

The resistance crumbled. Seven minutes later, it was two, another goal of stunning simplicity as Lampard, collecting Anelka's flick, fed Malouda and the winger slotted home.

Newcastle could have conceded more as they chased the game, Lampard twice testing Harper, Michael Ballack going close and Kalou wasting one clear-cut opportunity.

Newcastle should at least have had a consolation they scarcely deserved, Owen's shot from Butt's through ball seemingly squirming over the line via John Obi Mikel's chest, but Rob Styles, hoodwinked by Ashley Cole's desperate lunge, waved Newcastle's appeals away.

All hope gone, Shearer's faithful began to depart. He has not lost his flock yet, but he has just seven games to save them.


Source: Telegraph