Cisse wonder goal halts Chelsea’s top-four bid
Striker continues scoring streak to inspire Newcastle victory
CHELSEA 0 vs NEWCASTLE 2
CHELSEA manager Roberto di Matteo admits his side’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League hinge on winning the trophy after Newcastle, and Papiss Cisse’s goal of the season contender, tore their top-four hopes to ribbons.
Red-hot Cisse’s extraordinary double, capped by a majestic, improvised volley in stoppage time, took his tally to 13 in 12 Premier League games since joining the Magpies and kept Alan Pardew’s men just goal difference behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
Di Matteo’s side, however, now trail the Champions League spots by four points and could be completely cut adrift before they play again, prompting the Italian to accept beating Bayern Munich on 19 May is a likelier route back into the competition.
“It’s going to be difficult now to finish in fourth spot, we’re behind,” said Di Matteo, who insisted he would pick his men up for the FA Cup final against Liverpool in three days’ time, as he faces up to the prospect of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in the Roman Abramovich era.
“The season has been difficult. We’ll keep pushing, though, while it’s still possible, we won’t give up. We’ll pick everybody up and get them going again for Saturday. We’re looking forward to playing the cup final. It’s a great event and the motivation is going to be there.”
Pardew revelled in Cisse’s wonder goal, a shot of languid execution andplayground spontaneity that swerved and dipped beyond Petr Cech in an improbable 25-yard trajectory from the corner of the penalty area.
“It was an astonishing goal,” he said. “You could see he meant it. He’s hit it absolutely true and it’s just a great moment.
“We’ve been in and around [the top four] all year. With two to go we’re just below it and we’re going to give it everything. If we miss out, it’ll still be a phenomenal season.”
Di Matteo made six changes from the side that hit QPR for six on Sunday, resting Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Juan Mata, with freshness for Saturday intruding on his thinking. Pardew, with no such distractions, fielded his strongest side and, following a bright start from Chelsea when the rejuvenated Fernando Torres hungrily foraged, Newcastle slowly took control.
Warning shots arrived in Cheick Tiote’s skidding long-ranger before Hatem Ben Arfa cut in from the left and fed Cisse, who flicked up with his first touch and volleyed into the top-right corner with his next.
It was a magnificent strike and inspired the visitors to press for a second, Cisse forcing a low save at full stretch from Petr Cech and Demba Ba hitting the frame with a firm header.
Chelsea threw on Mata, Drogba and then Lampard as their second-half charge for an equaliser stuttered, while Tiote left the pitch after lengthy treatment and oxygen following a clash with John Obi Mikel that could yet be reviewed.
Only with two minutes remaining did Chelsea threaten to level, Terry’s
header from a corner cleared off the line by Davide Santon, but Cisse soon applied the killer blow, perhaps to Chelsea’s top-four chances.