Newcastle United defeated Chelsea 3-2 Saturday in a highly contentious and entertaining match. Jonas Gutierrez' first half deflected header was all that separated the two teams at half, but brilliant strikes from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata soon had the visitors in front, and it appeared that Newcastle were headed toward more dropped points after coming out poor in the second half for the umpteenth time in a row.
Moussa Sissoko had other ideas. A brilliant through ball from Papiss Cisse found Yoan Gouffran breaking down the left, and his shot at Petr Cech forced a juicy rebound that Moussa only had to tap in. That looked to be good enough for a draw, but thankfully (and surprisingly) Alan Pardew was in no mood to play for a draw. Chelsea had their chances, but it was the Magpies who were rewarded for their aggression when Sissoko slotted home a ground shot from just outside the box in the 90th minute.
The back and forth was immensely enjoyable to watch, as neither team seemed completely satisfied with a draw, but this match will likely be remembered more for its controversial moments. Howard Webb would have been justified sending both Ramires (for a late, high, two-footed tackle) and Fabricio Coloccini (for a high kick that broke Demba Ba's nose) in the first half, and the second half was just as rough-and-tumble. Papiss Cisse committed a rather soft foul on John Terry*, then made the rather stupid decision to choke Ashley Cole. Webb either didn't see it or decided not to enforce the rules, and Cisse was allowed to stay in the game. Not long after, Rafa Benitez and Alan Pardew began shouting at each other after a Yohan Cabaye foul, an exchange that reportedly contained several expletives.
*Terry made a meal of it, then the Fox Soccer crew went on to praise him for the opposite. Amazing.
Newcastle's resolve has been called into question many times during this lackluster season. Perhaps today was the turning point of all that talk. Just about every player on the pitch wearing black and white stripes showed an amazing amount of fight, each in their own way. Jonas shrugged off suggestions that his relationship with the manager, not his play, was keeping him in the Starting XI, while Steven Taylor, James Perch, and others displayed a toughness that proves they're every bit as worthy of praise as the more recognizable names in the squad.
NUFC have momentum now, and it will be up to them to make something out of their away fixture with Tottenham Hotspur in a week. If they can, all of that "R-word" talk will be a thing of the past.