Chelsea fail to break down Magpies
Salomon Kalou spared Chelsea's blushes as the champions had to come from behind to draw 1-1 and claim a point at Newcastle United.
The Côte d'Ivoire international fired home the equaliser in first-half injury time to prevent his side slipping to a third successive league defeat for the first time in 11 years. Andy Carroll had given the Magpies a sixth-minute lead when he capitalised on an error by Alex, and although the Londoners enjoyed the better of the game, they defended resolutely enough to deserve their point.
Chelsea climbed into second place as a result, but have now taken just four points from their last five games. Chris Hughton will have been the happier manager after seeing his reshuffled defence keep the visitors at bay.
"It was difficult at the beginning because we had a mistake but we had a good reaction," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports. "I think the performance was good and we were unlucky. But in four games we've scored just one goal and that's not enough. "We've lost the top [position] in the table and we have to run [chase] now, we have to improve and do better."
Last Saturday's 5-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers had proved a sobering experience for the Magpies, whose promising start to the season has been dented by a return of just a single point from the last nine on offer. In the circumstances, the prospect of champions Chelsea arriving on Tyneside desperate to avoid another damaging defeat was hardly an appetising one.
Add to that the absence of key trio Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson and Joey Barton through suspension, and the omens were not good. But with Sol Campbell making his first league start for the club and Taylor playing a competitive game for the first time since January, Hughton's men got off to the perfect start, albeit with a helping hand from Alex.
The Brazilian, whose visit to a wintry Tyneside may have come as something of a culture shock, and goalkeeper Petr Cech, who had already clawed away a second-minute Taylor header, were on entirely different wavelengths as they closed on a seemingly harmless through-ball. But with Carroll hot on his heels, the defender stabbed it past Cech to allow the England striker to tap the ball into an empty net.
The Magpies could hardly believe their luck, but as they snapped into tackles with midfielder Cheik Tiote in the thick of it following his return from suspension, they made life distinctly uncomfortable for the visitors. However, Chelsea warmed to their task as the half wore on to dominate possession, and although the home defence were proving stubborn, they gradually started to get on top.
Captain Didier Drogba forced a fine reaction save from Tim Krul at the near post with a blistering 19th-minute drive, and full-back Jose Enrique had to clear an Alex header off the line seven minutes later. As the Blues threw men forward, the Magpies threatened on the break with wide men Jonas Gutierrez and Wayne Routledge, in for injured captain Kevin Nolan, prospering sporadically, although the bulk of the traffic was in the opposite direction.
Ancelotti's men flexed their muscles as the half-time whistle approached, and were convinced they should have had a 43rd-minute penalty for Tiote's clumsy challenge on Ashley Cole as he burst into the area. They got their reward in injury time when Kalou carved his way into the penalty area and fired into the bottom corner with the help of a deflection of Taylor's out-stretched leg.
Blues dominate second half
Chelsea returned in determined mood and might have increased their lead with 56 minutes gone when Drogba expertly controlled a long ball and fired in a firm left-foot shot on the turn which Tim Krul got down well to save.But it was the home side who went close six minutes later when Cech failed to deal with a towering cross and only succeeded in serving the ball up to Wayne Routledge on the edge of the box. The winger controlled neatly before blasting a volley towards goal, where Cole was perfectly positioned to head off the line.
Chelsea threw everything they had at their hosts as time ran down and Drogba had a 77th-minute strike chalked off for handball, but Kalou could have won it three minutes later when Taylor, Campbell and Krul between them allowed the ball to fall to him beyond the far post, but he fired into the side-netting.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge shot wastefully across the face of goal with four minutes remaining as the champions launched a late onslaught, but Newcastle were not about to surrender a hard-earned point.
Magpies manager Hughton said: "Credit to every one of our players. We got to a stage where we knew we had to dig in but we also got to a stage where, if you can ever be a little comfortable against the quality of what they [Chelsea] have got, we ended up being a touch comfortable.