LONDON • Maurizio Sarri was in charge the last time Chelsea were in pole position in the Premier League in September 2018.
The Blues may not be top after the weekend is over, but Tammy Abraham believes his side are firmly in the title hunt following their 2-0 Premier League away win over Newcastle yesterday.
The England forward put the game to bed in the second half after an early own goal by Federico Fernandez set up the victory at St James’ Park, provisionally moving them to first in the table.
Chelsea had won only once in their previous seven visits to Newcastle but, despite the complaints of an early kick-off – which ruled out Thiago Silva, who arrived back in England from international duty on Thursday – the visitors were seldom troubled.
The hosts were not helped by Fernandez’s howler – since his debut in 2014, no player has scored more own goals than the Argentinian defender (five).
With Magpies’ top scorer Callum Wilson, who has netted six of their 10 league goals this season, missing with a hamstring injury, the hosts looked toothless in attack.
Chelsea handed Antonio Rudiger his first league start of the campaign in place of Silva and could have scored more than the two goals. The second came as Timo Werner sprinted clear before slipping a pass to Abraham, who calmly finished past Karl Darlow.
Sean Longstaff hit the bar from long range late on, but there was to be no comeback, meaning Frank Lampard’s side are now unbeaten in nine games in all competitions.
With five clean-sheets in their last six matches and a third straight league win, Abraham said it was the perfect way to start a hectic period leading up to Christmas.
“It’s a fantastic result, we had to dig deep as it’s never an easy place to come. It was 1-0 for a very long time, they created a few chances, but so did we and we defended well,” he told BT Sport.
“We didn’t let the international break distract us. We had to come out all guns blazing, we did that. It’s a massive three points.
No pressure (being in the title mix). That’s where we want to be.
“These games are always tricky when you can’t get that second goal. It’s very easy to drop your head and lose confidence, but we didn’t do that and kept going.
“No pressure (being in the title mix). That’s where we want to be, we just need to keep getting the three points and hopefully, we will stay up there.”
Lampard agreed his side “put the game away with a professional performance” but, with only nine top-flight games played, it was far too early to make any predictions.
“We played well, the result is key because the Premier League is tough and relentless. I thought the lads dealt with the challenge today and I’m really pleased,” the Blues boss said.
“It’s pleasing, but I’m not going to get excited about being at the top of the table for five minutes.
“We dominated the game, we could have scored more goals. But the lads dealt with it very well. We lost here last year, so it’s good progression to come here and get the right result.
“We have to think about the big picture and there’s improvement and work to be done. We need the squad, we need everybody.
“It’s a gruelling season and it’s good for the team’s confidence we got another clean sheet.”