London (AFP) – Chelsea shrugged off uncertainty over the club’s future to beat Newcastle 1-0 thanks to Kai Havertz’s late goal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, while Ukrainian international Andriy Yarmolenko broke down in tears after scoring in West Ham’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.
The European champions are still reeling from the impact of the sanctions placed on billionaire owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government for alleged close links to Vladimir Putin as the Russian president wages war on Ukraine.
Chelsea have only been allowed to keep operating thanks to a special licence that still imposes a series of restrictions such as a ban on selling tickets and merchandise.
There was little immediate sign of change once the action got underway in front of a full house at Stamford Bridge with all the tickets already sold prior to Thursday’s announcement of sanctions.
Prior to the match both Chelsea’s technical and performance advisor Petr Cech and manager Thomas Tuchel could offer no guarantees the Blues can even afford to fulfil their fixtures for the rest of the season unless the restrictions of the licence are eased.
In contrast to matches in recent weeks there was no chanting of Abramovich’s name by the Chelsea fans, although there was still a banner with his image hailing the “Roman Empire”.
The chaos caused by questions over where Abramovich amassed his wealth have also seen renewed criticism of the decision to allow Newcastle to be taken over earlier this season by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
The Magpies have seen immediate results from their first transfer window under new ownership as they were unbeaten in nine league games to climb away from the relegation zone.
Newcastle will rightly feel aggrieved that Havertz should not have been on the pitch to score the winner as he caught Dan Burn with an elbow in the first half, but escaped with just a yellow card.
The German then produced the one moment of real quality from a scrappy game when he controlled Jorginho’s ball over the top beautifully before prodding home the winner in the 89th minute.
Victory solidified Chelsea’s position in third place as they remain well on course for the much-needed financial boost of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
– Emotional Yarmolenko –
West Ham also have ambitions of a top-four finish as they closed to within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United in emotional circumstances at the London Stadium.
Yarmolenko had been given time off following Russia’s invasion of his homeland to help aid some of his family to safety.
Introduced as a second-half substitute, he fired home the opening goal 20 minutes from time and was overcome with emotion as he bent down on his knees in celebration.
Pablo Fornals quickly doubled the Hammers’ lead before Jacob Ramsey pulled a late consolation goal back for Villa.
At the bottom of the table, Leeds and Watford secured big wins in their battle to beat the drop as Everton slipped even closer to the relegation zone.
Leeds secured their first win under new manager Jesse Marsch in dramatic fashion as Joe Gelhardt struck deep into stoppage time to beat bottom-of-the-table Norwich 2-1 at a relieved Elland Road.
Victory opened up a four-point gap for Leeds over Everton, who are now only out of the bottom three on goal difference.
Frank Lampard’s men slipped to an eighth defeat in nine league games as Conor Coady’s header earned Wolves a 1-0 win at Goodison Park.
Watford secured a much-needed win to keep alive their hopes of survival by beating Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s thanks to Cucho Hernandez’s double.
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