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Chelsea routs Newcastle 3-0 in Premier League

Updated: December 03, 2011, 13:41

Chelsea's Salomon Kalou, right, celebrates his goal with teammate Ramires, centre, during their English Premier League soccer match against Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle, England, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

LONDON(AP) Didier Drogba's first-half header and late strikes by forwards Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge earned Chelsea a 3-0 win over Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday, lifting the team into the top four and maintaining its title challenge.

Drogba capped a dominant first-half showing by the visitors by meeting Juan Mata's cross with a powerful finish in the 38th minute, before Kalou and Sturridge wrapped up victory in the final few minutes with goals on the counterattack.

Although Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard also had a penalty saved in the 13th, Newcastle will still count themselves unlucky to have slipped to a first home defeat of the season, relinquishing its place in the Champions League positions to the London club in the process.

Chelsea defender David Luiz could easily have been sent off for a professional foul on Demba Ba in the fourth minute - the Brazil defender escaped with a booking even though he was last man - while Newcastle also hit the woodwork three times, twice through Ba.

A third league victory in four games lifted Chelsea, which started the match in fifth place, above its opponent and will come as a relief to manager Andre Villas-Boas, who has come under pressure in recent weeks after the team's lackluster start to the season.

"They were amazing and show fantastic team and fighting spirits when everything is against them, when they are in the newspapers being questioned,'' Villas-Boas said.

"We don't know why because we have full belief in them and today it was a much-deserved win for them and the praise should be shared by all of them.''

The result could have been different had Luiz been dismissed for pulling down Ba, who was a threat up front all match.

Referee Mike Dean's decision to brandish the yellow card angered the majority of the crowd, Newcastle's players and its manager Alan Pardew, who was raging in his technical area and approached the official at halftime.

"The referee said to me at half-time that he (Ba) didn't have control of the ball,'' Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said. "I am not quite sure of the rule book, so I need to get that out and have a look at it.

"It was the fourth minute of the game, but it doesn't really matter when that moment arrives. He was in on goal, he was in behind Luiz, the goalie was not going to get to the ball, therefore it's a goalscoring opportunity, and he brought him down.''

The visitors made the most of the reprieve and peppered Newcastle's goal with shots before Drogba finally gave them the lead with his second league goal of the season.

Lampard had a penalty saved by Tim Krul low down to the Dutch goalkeeper's left after the lively Sturridge was felled by Yohan Cabaye.

Sturridge hit the post and then forced a smart save from Krul before Mata took advantage of some sloppy Newcastle defending from a Chelsea throw to loft a cross over for Drogba to power a header high into the center of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

Newcastle wasn't without chances at the other end, with Ba having a flicked volley tipped over by Petr Cech before hitting the base of the post with a header from Cabaye's cross.

Nine minutes after the break, Ba crashed a header against the bar and substitute Shola Ameobi shuddered the bar in the 81st with a powerful 25-yard shot.

Newcastle was caught on the counterattack in the dying stages, however, allowing Chelsea to wrap up a much-needed win.

Kalou scored his first league goal this season from 10 yards in the 89th and Sturridge grabbed the goal his all-round performance deserved by firing in low in injury time, netting for the third straight league game.

"Bearing in mind the fact that last weekend was a good win for us against Wolves and not a long time ago we won against Blackburn away, we are making good progress,'' said Villas-Boas, whose team's Champions League progress is on the line against Valencia on Tuesday.

"We hope that Premier League fortunes are inverting for us. It's a good three points at a very, very difficult ground.''

Newcastle had been looking for a victory on a day the club paid tribute to its former midfielder and captain Gary Speed, who was found dead in his home on Sunday.

A minute's applause preceded the match, while the crowd burst into more applause after 11 minutes of the match, singing "There's only one Gary Speed.'' The late Wales manager had worn the No. 11 jersey during his playing days at the northeast team from 1998-2004.

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