Nothing lost in translation as French connection deliver
Newcastle's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Gary Cahill of Chelsea battle for possession during Saturday's Premier League match at St James' Park. photograph: paul thomas/getty images
Newcastle United 3 Chelsea 2:Moussa Sissoko had just made a sensational home debut for Newcastle United and Rafael Benitez faced sustained attack from cyber-space but, briefly, Jean-Paul Ndoumin assumed centre stage.
After an afternoon spent in the home dressingroom and dugout serving as the interpreter tasked with imparting Alan Pardew’s message to his latest French influx, Ndoumin enthusiastically joined in an impromptu lap of honour at the final whistle.
“When we ran through points I needed to make he was really good,” said an amused Newcastle manager. “I think he’s better than me; maybe I should retire. Afterwards he asked: ‘Do you want me to do the post-match interviews?’ and I said: ‘No, that’s my job.’ “I did actually ask the French boys if he was taking the piss at times because I saw a couple of them laughing at his translations. I don’t know if he’s expressing a bit more than what I’m saying but it seems to be working. We like him.”
Rather than plotting a coup, Ndoumin had simply become caught up in the emotion of one of this season’s stand-out games, a quite wonderful match which, by making a mockery of the notion that Newcastle might be relegated, left Benitez looking more vulnerable than ever.
Not that a dismal run of one win in six games means Chelsea are about to press the panic button and dismiss their interim manager. Instead, the indications are that Benitez will be given time to realise his conviction that a top-three finish remains attainable.
With Yohan Cabaye intelligence personified in central midfield, Steven Taylor impressive in central defence and the newly arrived Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran adding exhilarating pace to the equation, Newcastle were very good. So good, that they weathered a second-half spell when, inspired exquisitely by Juan Mata, Chelsea appeared irrepressible.
By then Jonas Gutierrez’s header from Davide Santon’s excellent cross had given the slick passing Tynesiders a 41st-minute lead. Equally significantly, their former striker Demba Ba had his nose broken as, unintentionally but recklessly, Fabricio Coloccini caught him in the face with his boot in the area. “It was a penalty and it should have been a red card,” said Benitez.
Chelsea then looked to have grabbed the game by the throat. Two superb shots from Frank Lampard and Mata eluded Tim Krul’s grasp and Benitez’s players cruised. Or at least they did until Sissoko decided the time had come to use his blistering counterattacking pace to put the European Champions firmly in their place.
First the 22-year-old, acquired for €2 million from Toulouse where he had only six months left on his contract, beat Petr Cech on the rebound after Chelsea’s goalkeeper parried a shot from the accelerating Gouffran. Sissoko further unnerved Chelsea. So much so that when Santon surged into the area and cut back the ball they proved powerless to prevent the France international’s shot for a 90th-minute winner.