Marcos Alonso found a way through Newcastle United’s resolute defence to give Chelsea a hard-earned 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The vigour evident in a 4-1 victory over Southampton a fortnight ago largely eluded Frank Lampard’s men on their return from the international break but inspiration eventually arrived in the 73rd minute.
Left-back Alonso steadied himself and unleashed a clean strike that proved too powerful for Martin Dubravka, who had not long earlier denied substitute Christian Pulisic at close range.
The victory, Chelsea’s fifth straight in all competitions, lifts the Blues to third in the Premier League, at least until Manchester City’s visit to Crystal Palace later on Saturday.
Callum Hudson-Odoi provided Willian with an inviting header early on then teed up a chance for Mason Mount, who fired straight at Dubravka.
Chelsea otherwise struggled to carve open Newcastle in the first half and lost Ross Barkley just before the break, the midfielder unable to shake off the effects of Ciaran Clark’s firm challenge in the second minute.
Kept quiet for close to an hour, Tammy Abraham almost scored the opener when his header from Willian’s corner skimmed off centre-back Clark and against the woodwork.
The striker went close from another set-piece before Pulisic squandered a chance to make himself the hero, Dubravka smothering a scuffed finish at close quarters.
The Magpies goalkeeper passionately celebrated the save but was soon left to rue his inability to get a stronger hand to Alonso’s low, match-winning drive.