NEWCASTLE, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Chelsea’s misfiring forwards are threatening to undo their good work from earlier in the season as Frank Lampard’s side missed the chance to pull clear of the chasing pack in race for the top four after defeat at Newcastle United.
With Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur both dropping points on Saturday, and Manchester United travelling to runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday, Chelsea had the opportunity to open up sizeable gap with victory at Newcastle.
The hosts came into the contest having won just once in their last four league games, but Isaac Hayden’s dramatic stoppage time header snatched all three points for Steve Bruce’s side.
Chelsea missed several chances, especially in the second half, to break the deadlock, having controlled much of the match, enjoying 70% possession in the 90 minutes.
Their leading scorer Tammy Abraham, who has scored 13 league goals this season, was guilty of some missed opportunities. However, his team mates offered little in terms of a threat in the final third, with only four of Chelsea’s 19 shots at goal finding the target.
It has been the story of Chelsea’s recent form — a run which has brought only four wins from their last 11 league games.
Brazilian forward Willian has two league goals since the end of October and Mason Mount is without a single strike since the start of December. American forward Christian Pulisic is goalless in the league since early November, and Callum Hudson-Odoi only scored his first senior league goal last weekend.
Abraham may have had an off day, but he was the only Chelsea forward at St James’ to have a shot on target all match.
“We cannot rely on just Tammy,” Lampard said. “We have to get goals across the frontline if we want to bridge the gap upwards.
“It did not quite come off for Tammy tonight, but that is football.
“We have so much talent in this team, but when we are controlling games, we have to score the goals, simple. It has been the story of our season.”
Chelsea, despite starting the season having been unable to make any signings due to a transfer ban, surprised many with the start to the campaign their young side made, as they won six successive league games between September and early November.
The goals flowed throughout the side, but since defeat at Manchester City two months ago, they have looked much less potent.
Abraham is certainly not the same threat he was, but his fellow forwards’ struggles need to be arrested to ensure their top-four spot does not slip. (Reporting by Peter Hall Editing by Christian Radnedge)