Chelsea were victims of Newcastle’s French revolution as Moussa Sissoko inspired a dramatic 3-2 victory over the spluttering Blues at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Sissoko, signed from Toulouse during the transfer window, scored twice to seal a come from behind win for Newcastle, who look to have bought wisely by concentrating on recruting players from Ligue 1 in the past month.
Magpies manager Alan Pardew bought five French players during the January transfer window and the new imports have revitalised a team previously slipping dangerously close to the relegation zone.
After taking the lead through Jonas Gutierrez, Newcastle could have folded when Frank Lampard sparked a Chelsea fightback with a goal that meant he became the first Premier League player to reach double figures in ten successive seasons.
Juan Mata added a second for Chelsea, but Sissoko struck twice to keep Newcastle four points clear of the bottom three. In the process, he delivered another blow to third placed Chelsea, who squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Reading in midweek and still remain uncertain of a top four finish.
It was a game with a myriad of sub-plots, notably the return of Demba Ba, who remains Newcastle’s leading scorer this season despite his move to Chelsea at the start of the transfer window.
But his involvement lasted only 42 minutes before he was replaced by Fernando Torres after suffering a facial injury when he headed wide from an excellent chance 10 minutes earlier.
However, the most interesting aspect of the game centred on the home debut of the contingent of French players signed by Newcastle in the past fortnight.
Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran were both in the side, with the former Toulouse man given a forward role alongside Papiss Cisse, who was back in his favourite place as the spearhead of the attack in the wake of Ba’s exit. Sissoko, in particular, made a favourable impression when he scored twice in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Gunners leave it late
Arsenal moved within a point of the Champions League places after beating Stoke City 1-0. Lukas Podolski claimed the game’s only goal in the 78th minute with a low free-kick that deflected off Geoff Cameron to wrong-foot goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Fellaini rescues Everton
At Goodison Park, Marouane Fellaini headed in an injury-time equaliser to earn Everton a 3-3 draw in a breathless game at home to Aston Villa, who once again failed to defend a lead and remain firmly ensconced in the bottom three.
A Christian Benteke brace and a goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor meant Villa were 3-1 up with 21 minutes to play, Victor Anichebe having replied for Everton, only for Fellaini's late double to give Everton a share of the spoils.
Villa are now two points below fourth-bottom Reading, who won 2-1 at home to Sunderland to keep themselves above the bottom three. Southampton were denied a win after conceding a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic.