Cisse screamer kills off Chelsea's Premier League top four hopes
Newcastle victory means Chelsea will probably have to win Champions League this month to qualify for next year
Chelsea 0 Newcastle United 2. Papiss Cisse scored one of the goals of any season as Newcastle beat Chelsea to keep alive their hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League. The Magpies' victory at Stamford Bridge, and Tottenham's 4-1 win away at Bolton, means both clubs are level on 65 points with two matches remaining. Spurs are fourth on account of their vastly superior goal difference, but Newcastle are only a point behind Arsenal in third.
Chelsea's chances of finishing in the top four would appear to be over following last night's reverse in rainy west London. Four points behind Newcastle, the Blues will now have to beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final if they wish to find themselves in Europe's premier competition next season.
Chelsea were always off the pace against Newcastle, their heavy fixture schedule finally taking its toll as manager Roberto Di Matteo also fielded a weakened team with one eye on Saturday's FA Cup Final against Liverpool. The likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole remained on the bench but even if they had been present none would have been able to do much about Cisse's two incredible strikes.
The first came on 19 minutes when the Senegalese striker flicked up the ball and then volleyed it with his left foot past Petr Cech. That was good but what followed in stoppage time was even better, what Newcastle boss Alan Pardew described later as an "astonishing goal". (See video below.)
For much of the second half Newcastle had been under the cosh as Chelsea searched for the equaliser but then the visitors counter-attacked down the left flank in a lengthy stoppage time caused by a head injury to Cheick Tiote. Running onto a pass from Shola Ameobi, Cisse let fly with a thunderbolt from a tight angle beyond the Chelsea penalty area. Cech had time to see it but he hadn't the means to stop it as the ball fizzed over his head and into the top corner of the net. The look on Cech's face said it all: who the hell is this guy?
Cisse has now scored 13 goals in 12 games since arriving from German club Freiburg in January on a £10m deal and Pardew wasted no time in heaping praise on the 26-year-old who spent his early career with French minnows Metz. "The commitment Papiss has shown in terms of coming in and settling in has been great and the goals have helped," said Pardew, adding: "He's been a great signing. We felt he had the pedigree after two great seasons in the Bundesliga in a team that had been struggling… and he deserves it because he works so hard."
There's no respite for Newcastle, however, and the Magpies now face leaders Manchester City on Sunday, 24 hours after Arsenal entertain Norwich at the Emirates. Should the Gunners win that encounter, and Newcastle fail to beat City, then their hopes of finishing third will be gone, but Pardew was only thinking positively after the club's first league win at Stamford Bridge since 1986. "It's all to play for. We've got ourselves in a great position, and you don't get yourselves in a position like this if you don't have great players," exclaimed the Newcastle boss. "We've got two games to go and let's win them both and see where it takes us."