Frank Lampard singled out Timo Werner for special praise after the German starred in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Werner’s breathtaking second-half surge over the halfway line set up Chelsea’s second goal for Tammy Abraham after an early Federico Fernandez own goal had put the Blues on their way to a fifth straight win.
Lampard said: “He [Werner] had a couple of chances and sometimes it doesn’t go in for you, but I thought he was a real threat for us throughout.
“You need players of that quality to win game and the pace he travels with the ball is something special. He was so unselfish, and you rely on those players who are top-class.”
The victory lifted Chelsea top of the Premier League – for a few hours at least – for the first time under Lampard, but the Blues boss refused to get carried away with his side’s increasingly impressive run of form.
Instead, he pointed to their defensive display as another reason why they may be in better shape to launch a title challenge.
Edouard Mendy has registered seven clean sheets in his nine appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, with Saturday’s shutout at St James’ Park his fourth in five Premier League games.
“It’s nice to be in the position we are, and to have gained confidence from the clean sheets, which were a problem for us earlier in this season and parts of last, but we need to keep working and be consistent,” he said.
“The international break was challenging but we came here against a team we lost to last year, we dominated possession and we scored our goals, and we could have scored more.”
Magpies boss Steve Bruce bemoaned his side’s inability to make the most of their opportunities and admitted conceding early goals is becoming a worrying habit.
Bruce said: “That’s the fifth time we’ve been one down with five or 10 minutes played and we have to address that.
“We were better in the second half and we went higher up the pitch and had some big moments, but unfortunately we couldn’t take one and Chelsea punished us with a poor goal that we gave away.
“I’m frustrated because we can’t get a result. I make no excuses but we’ve played three of the top six in the last few weeks. It’s been difficult but there was a lot to like about that second-half performance.”
Bruce revealed he had decided not to risk top scorer Callum Wilson due to recent hamstring issues, but hopes he will be back in the squad for the busy festive period.
“I couldn’t risk him today because of the risk of a hamstring and missing [him] for the next six weeks,” said Bruce. “We’ve erred on the side of caution and we hope he’ll be available for us next week.
“One of the reasons why we bought him was to add some goals for us, which he’s obviously done, and we’ve now got two or three getting back to help that situation, and obviously Callum being one of them.”