London: A week of unprecedented turmoil for Chelsea ended with a moment of joy.
In a game that came to symbolize the Premier League’s connections to so-called “sportswashing” by unsavoury owners, Kai Havertz netted an 89th-minute winner to give Chelsea 1-0 victory over Newcastle in the Premier League today.
Havertz used an exquisite first touch to control a cross into the box and then slotted a calm finish into the net to set off wild celebrations among the capacity crowd at Stamford Bridge.
It may be some time before Chelsea plays in front of a sold-out home stadium again after the UK government imposed sanctions on Russian owner Roman Abramovich, but the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future has so far not had an effect on the pitch.
The win followed a 3-1 victory over Norwich on Thursday and maintained Chelsea’s solid grip on third place in the standings. For Newcastle, it was the club’s first league loss of the year, ending a nine-game unbeaten run.
But this was always going to be a game that stood out more because of events off the pitch.
Chelsea has been granted a special license to keep playing after Abramovich was sanctioned because of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, halting his attempt to sell the club.
Newcastle, meanwhile, is facing renewed scrutiny after Saudi Arabia staged a mass execution on Saturday, putting to death 81 people convicted of various crimes. Newcastle was bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in October, although both the club and the Premier League have insisted that the Saudi state isn’t involved in the running of the club.
Havertz may have been fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for elbowing Dan Burn in the head in an aerial duel in the first half. In the end, his goal meant Chelsea escaped with a win that may quell talk of a full-blown crisis - for now.
Meanwhile, Everton slipped further into danger as Wolves inflicted a fourth successive Premier League defeat on Frank Lampard’s side with a hard-fought win at Goodison Park. Conor Coady scored the only goal as other results mean the Toffees sit above the bottom three only on goal difference, though they have games in hand on the teams around them.
Everton rarely threatened after going behind and their afternoon went from bad to worse as Jonjoe Kenny received two yellow cards in three minutes, forcing the hosts to play the final 13 minutes with 10 men.
Victory for Wolves takes them above Tottenham into seventh while Everton remain 17th.
Cucho Hernandez scored twice as Watford boosted their hopes of securing Premier League survival with victory over Southampton at St Mary’s.
Leeds landed a first victory under manager Jesse Marsch in stunning fashion as Joe Gelhardt struck in injury time to beat relegation rivals Norwich and send Elland Road into raptures and Ukraine international Andriy Yarmolenko was on target to help West Ham get past Aston Villa with a 2-1 win.