Chelsea clear after Newcastle win
Jose Mourinho may have again landed himself in hot water by voicing his opinions but he left it to his Chelsea players to do the talking on the pitch against Newcastle as they moved clear at the top of the table.
An unconvincing 2-0 win in a game in which the visitors had the better chances and dominated for much of the first half may not live long in the memory but, with title rivals Manchester City only drawing at Everton, it puts the Blues two points clear at the head of the Barclays Premier League.
Petr Cech retained his place in the Chelsea goal with Thibaut Courtois nursing a hand injury and he was the busier goalkeeper as Newcastle wasted a number of chances, with Moussa Sissoko coming closest as he hit the frame of the goal, before Oscar opened the scoring close to half-time.
Diego Costa doubled their advantage just before the hour-mark and that was always going to be enough to secure a vital three points for Chelsea.
Mourinho has spoken about a "campaign" against his Blues, has since been charged by the Football Association and has also apologised for his comments about FA Cup referee Kevin Friend last weekend.
The Portuguese was vocal from the touchline from virtually the first kick of this game but it was his own players, and not match official Roger East, who were on the receiving end of the majority of his rants.
That was because Newcastle looked sharper than their title-chasing hosts but, after this defeat, they have still won just once since they shattered all hopes of an unbeaten season for Mourinho's men with a 2-1 win at St James' Park on December 6.
The Magpies have also seen manager Alan Pardew jump ship to struggling Crystal Palace since then - with caretaker John Carver's push for the permanent post still struggling to gather momentum despite this spirited display.
The result could have been so different but the visitors, without goalscorer Papiss Cisse due to African Nations Cup duty, could not make Chelsea pay for a sluggish start with a tame Sissoko effort and a blocked Remy Cabella shot all they had to show after having the better of the opening 15 minutes.
Cabella went much closer moments later as he capitalised on a quickly-taken free-kick to jink around a number of Chelsea defenders only to see his curling effort deflect behind of the unwitting John Terry.
The home fans were becoming restless when Cech was forced to push away a firm Yoan Gouffran free-kick, with Chelsea breaking at pace only to see Costa look for a pass when a shot seemed the better option.
Mourinho had been screaming at a number of his players in the opening exchanges but Oscar, one of his targets of discontent, came close as he bent an effort just wide of Tim Krul's goal - with the returning Newcastle stopper still untested in his first game for six weeks.
Cabella was the man causing problems for Chelsea and he skipped past Terry with ease on the half-hour mark before again testing Cech with a low effort before Sissoko crashed a shot off the woodwork after finding another easy path around the Chelsea skipper.
But all the hard work was undone with two minutes of the first-half as the Newcastle defence switched off as Chelsea won a corner, with Willian quickly rolling the ball to Branislav Ivanovic and his square ball across goal was turned home by Oscar at the back post.
There was still time for Willian to force Krul into a decent stop with a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area as Carver disappeared down the tunnel at half-time surely pondering how his side were trailing.
The interval seemed to blunt Newcastle's attacking intent and they fell further behind as Costa netted his 15th Chelsea goal after clever touches from both Eden Hazard and Oscar.
Brazilian Oscar was coming into the game more and more and his knock-down was almost swept home by Costa, but the forward could not make enough contact to truly test Krul from close-range.
Costa wriggled free once again with 10 minutes remaining but his scuffed shot was cleared behind by the outstretched leg of Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini, but the game was long since won.