Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted he owed a debt of gratitude to substitutes, Ramires and Willian who were responsible for the fightback which earned a 2-2 draw at Newcastle.
Chelsea were trailing 2-0 and seemingly heading for their fifth defeat in eight games when Ramires sparked the recovery with a long-range shot in the 79th minute.
He then distracted Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul sufficiently to enable Willian’s free-kick to find a way past him.
Mourinho, who has never won in his six trips to Newcastle, praised the contributions of the pair after giving his other players a rating of minus-one for their first-half show.
“For sure, it as bad as we have played. We have played so many matches over ten years and there have been some bad performances and I call the first half here one of those performances,” said the Chelsea boss.
“I put it down to individual performances. When you have so many bad individual performances, it is impossible to be a team.
“I have extreme feelings — the negative one and the positive one. It is a point. That’s what we got. Better than to lose but I’m never happy when I don’t win matches.
“I’ll have to try to understand why they can play so bad in one half and so well in the other. We were bad in every aspect of the game.”
He added: “The team played much better because of Ramires and Willian. They scored the goals and both of them brought the team to a different level. They brought more intensity and were much more dynamic. Newcastle could not cope with it.”
It was a transformation they desperately needed after defensive frailties allowed Newcastle to take control.
Kurt Zouma failed to head clear a cross which enabled Ayoze Perez to put Newcastle in front in the 42nd minute and more slack marking left Georginio Wijnaldum free to head their second on the hour.
John Terry, watching from the bench, must sense his recall is looming although Mourinho said: “John just has to do what he is doing — work well and hard and behave like the captain and wait for my decision. The decision he is obviously wants is to play.”
Newcastle are still in the bottom three and without a league win, but coach Steve McClaren suspects the return of suspended forward Aleksandar Mitrovic is a major turning point in their season.
“People tend to forget we have missed Mitrovic for three games and didn’t have a centre-forward. You need that target man to play off and we had one who was a constant threat to the Chelsea back four along with Perez,” said McClaren.
“In the end, it was so close. It was 2-2 with five minutes to go and we could have lost it because the momentum had swung.
“We are disappointed we didn’t win, but the key thing is how we played and responded.
“We said we had to end the week with a performance and show what we can do — and they did that to a man. Their attitude was magnificent and we got in their faces.
“We played very good football, especially in the first half. We looked a team today.” – Agence France-Presse