Havertz was the hero as Chelsea snatched a 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday at the end of a difficult week at Stamford Bridge.
The European champions did not manage a shot on target for 75 minutes in a largely listless performance coming just days after Roman Abramovich was disqualified as owner after being sanctioned by the UK government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The lack of clarity over the club’s future seemed to permeate the performance, with even Chelsea’s home shirts creating confusion given they carried the Three logo despite the company suspending sponsorship and asking the banding to be removed.
Havertz eventually tested Martin Dubravka with a header late in the second half but it looked as though Newcastle – whose own Saudi Arabia-backed ownership came under further scrutiny in the build-up to the match – would extend their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.
However, Havertz’s sublime control and finish from Jorginho’s pass in the 89th minute gave Thomas Tuchel’s men all three points, the Germany star having earlier been fortunate to escape a red card.
Newcastle largely kept Chelsea comfortably at bay in the first half, though, and Havertz – starting again in place of Romelu Lukaku – was arguably lucky not to see his game end early, a VAR check deciding no more than a yellow card was required after he caught Dan Burn with a raised arm.
Miguel Almiron almost scored a stunning opener seconds before the break, his volley from the edge of the box beaten away by Edouard Mendy.
VAR again left Newcastle fans frustrated when referee David Coote chose not to give a penalty for Trevoh Chalobah’s challenge on Jacob Murphy and the decision was allowed to stand.
Havertz at last evaded centre-back Dan Burn to meet Hakim Ziyech’s cross, but he could only nod the ball into Dubravka’s grateful grasp.
Yet when Havertz at last evaded the attentions of Burn, he took down Jorginho’s raking pass superbly before prodding high past Dubravka.
What does it mean? Havertz lights up the Bridge as Chelsea’s future darkens
Before the game, Chelsea’s technical advisor Petr Cech told Sky Sports that he could not even guarantee they would finish the season given the uncertainty around the club.
The performance from the team reflected a club treading water, their attack lacking purpose and the atmosphere tepid, as Newcastle limited them to zero shots on target in the first 74 minutes.
Havertz’s goal means Chelsea have now won nine home league games in a row over the Magpies and are back to within 10 points of leaders Manchester City with 10 games to go.
Kai holds the key
The winning goal from Havertz was a rare moment of quality in the game, the speed of his touch and finish leaving Dubravka barely any chance to close him down.
It was an unfortunate moment for Burn, who was punished for the one occasion he allowed the Chelsea forward to steal a march.
Tuchel’s men had 73 per cent of the possession but managed only three shots on target, with Lukaku touching the ball just seven times in his 27 minutes on the pitch.
The disconnect in the side was reflected in a strange atmosphere in the stands, although Havertz’s quality at the death did at least prompt some celebrations.
Key Opta Facts:
– Newcastle’s nine-match unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end, with the Magpies also failing to score for the first time in 10 matches since losing to Manchester City in December (a 4-0 defeat).
– Only versus Tottenham (33) have Chelsea won more Premier League games than they have against Newcastle (29), with the Blues winning each of their last nine home league games against the Magpies.
– Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 35 Premier League home games played in March (W30 D5), since a 4-2 loss against Sunderland in 2001. Only in August (38 between 1993 and 2015) have the Blues had a longer unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge in a specific month.
– Havertz has scored in three consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time – while in all competitions he has had a hand in six goals in his last five games (5 goals, 1 assist).
– Jorginho provided only his second Premier League assist at Stamford Bridge, in what was his 61st appearance at the stadium in the competition (also vs Norwich in Oct 2021).
Chelsea head to Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday before next Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough. Newcastle travel to Everton in the league on Thursday.