LONDON // Chelsea's home form is becoming a serious problem after they were held to a goalless draw by a battling Newcastle United on another frustrating afternoon for Luiz-Felipe Scolari's side. The result means the Blues have already dropped nine points in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge this season and leaves a serious question mark hanging over their title challenge.
For Newcastle's stand-in manager Joe Kinnear, however, the way his side defended will boost his hopes of getting the job full time. Chelsea's preparation was hindered by international fixtures in midweek which saw Jose Bosingwa, Deco and Paulo Ferreira return to London as late as Friday. But Scolari chose to pick the first two and included Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Ashley Cole. With so many half-fit and worn-out players on, it was hardly surprising, perhaps, that Chelsea started slowly against a Newcastle side fielding Michael Owen, who had a point to prove after being ignored by his country, up front.
Lampard could, and should, have put Chelsea ahead after eight minutes when his header from a dinked Malouda cross was spectacularly saved, one-handed and at full stretch, by Shay Given. After that, chances at either end were few as the game fizzled out. Although Chelsea have won all their away games this season, the Blues went into this match having already dropped seven points at Stamford Bridge.
They started the second half more brightly, however, with Anelka's shot cannoning back off Given's chest. And they were denied an opening goal when Joe Cole forced the ball home after Malouda's shot was saved in the 54th minute, only to be ruled offside. Given also appeared to carry a Lampard free-kick over his own line as he stumbled backwards and it really was one-way traffic as the home side took total control with Newcastle defending deep.