LONDON, February 16: Timo Werner ended his Premier League goal drought as the Chelsea forward sealed a 2-0 win against Newcastle that lifted the Blues into fourth place on Monday.
Werner netted late in the first half at Stamford Bridge after setting up Olivier Giroud’s opener for Thomas Tuchel’s revitalised team.
It was a cathartic moment for Werner, who had gone 14 league games without a goal since scoring against Sheffield United in November.
The 24-year-old’s only goal in his previous 19 matches in all competitions had come against minnows Morecambe in the FA Cup.
Werner was heralded as one of the best young strikers in Europe after his £50 million ($69 million) move from Leipzig in the close-season.
That hype has seemed misplaced during a difficult first season in England, but his 10th goal for Chelsea capped a lively performance that hinted at better things to come.
“As a striker you always want to score. The last month was hard. I was not happy. Glad I scored today,” said Werner, who praised his compatriot Tuchel’s role in his performance.
“It’s helped me that someone can scream at me in German! He’s a really good guy and has a good idea of the football we want to play.”
Tuchel added: “Timo was decisive with an assist and goal. I’m very happy with that and he was working hard in the last few matches.”
Tuchel is yet to lose in six games since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, with five successive victories in all competitions suggesting the former Paris Saint-Germain boss could prove a shrewd appointment.
Chelsea are back in the Champions League places — the minimum requirement for a Blues boss — after climbing above West Ham on goal difference.
Tuchel is also two points above his fellow German Jurgen Klopp, whose troubled champions Liverpool are languishing in sixth place.
“Top four is the target and stays the target, there are many team behind us chasing,” Tuchel said.
“We had many points to recover and it stays a big challenge because many games are coming. We are going to play teams from the top and bottom, every game is difficult and we will keep fighting.”
Cesar Azpilicueta went close early on as his header beat Newcastle keeper Darlow but was nodded off the line by Dwight Gayle.
Abraham was replaced by Giroud after suffering an ankle injury in a challenge with Jamaal Lascelles.
Werner was inches away from scoring when he stretched to reach Alonso’s header, but the German’s toe-poked effort drifted just wide.
Showing signs of emerging from his slump, Werner provided the assist for Giroud’s 31st minute opener.
Moments after needing treatment for a cut lip, Werner whizzed past Emil Krafth with a clever shimmy and sent a low cross into the Newcastle area.
Darlow could only push it out to Giroud and the French striker lashed home from 10 yards for his first goal in six games.
With Chelsea well on top, Werner finally got back on the scoresheet in the 39th minute.
Mason Mount’s corner was flicked onto the far post and Werner just about scrambled it into the net from close-range, with his wait to celebrate delayed just a few seconds longer while VAR ruled there was no handball by Giroud before the goal.
After exactly 1000 minutes and 31 shots, Werner had a smile on his face at last.
Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was preferred to Edouard Mendy as the much-maligned Spaniard made only his fourth league start this season and his first since October.
Kepa repaid Tuchel’s faith with a good stop from Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick in the second half.
Despite their revival under Tuchel, Chelsea are not the finished article and Newcastle exposed a few flaws in their defence, only to find the error-prone Kepa in unusually obdurate form.
Joe Willock flicked just wide from close-range, then drew a fine save from Kepa, who dived to his left to keep out the on-loan Arsenal midfielder’s header.
West Ham up to fifth after comfortable win over Sheffield United
West Ham United moved into fifth spot in the Premier League standings on Monday after an efficient 3-0 home win over bottom side Sheffield United at the London Stadium.
Declan Rice’s 41st-minute penalty had the hosts in front at halftime. Issa Diop added a second in the 58th minute with a header and Ryan Fredericks scored with the last kick of the game.
David Moyes’s team controlled the majority of proceedings against a spirited Sheffield United, who again paid a price for individual errors.
The result briefly meant West Ham moved into fourth spot on 42 points, just above champions Liverpool on 40. However, Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Newcastle United in Monday’s late game lifted them above the Hammers again on goal difference.
A fourth win in their last six league games boosted West Ham’s hopes of a place in European club competition next season while keeping the Blades at the foot of the table with 11 points from 24 matches.
“If you look at last season when we were fighting relegation to where we are now, there’s been a massive improvement,” said captain Rice.
“It’s massive to be in the top four and we need now to be pushing ourselves week in and week out.”
The visitors received an early let off from VAR after Enda Stevens gave away a needless spot kick for a shove on West Ham defender Craig Dawson, as both were chasing the ball after goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale had parried away a Rice free kick.
A VAR check found Dawson was offside when Rice struck the free kick, so the penalty was ruled out.
But six minutes from halftime, Blades defender Chris Basham tripped Jesse Lingard in another clumsy challenge to hand West Ham a first penalty of the league season, which Rice tucked into the corner.
Lingard again injected pace and energy into the West Ham attack as he continued to impress early into his loan spell from Manchester United.
West Ham doubled their lead when Diop headed home from Aaron Cresswell’s corner.
It followed shortly after the best chance for the visitors when David McGoldrick’s headed effort was tipped over the crossbar by Lukasz Fabianski.
Fredericks tucked away a shot deep in stoppage time after being set up by fellow substitute Said Benrahma to round off a satisfying evening for the hosts and another disappointing one for the Blades.
“The game is hard enough for us in the Premier League, especially when we’re not getting the results we want, and we can’t make it even harder for ourselves, which we are doing now,” Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder told BT Sport. (AFP/Reuters)