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Havertz hands Chelsea win over Newcastle as ownership saga rumbles on

Chelsea edged Newcastle 1-0 on Sunday amid the ongoing ambiguity over the club’s ownership.

Kai Havertz, who escaped a sending off in the first half, pounced after 89 minutes and finished superbly to hand Chelsea all three points and end Newcastle’s nine-match undefeated run.

While the result has ramifications in third-place Chelsea’s quest for a top-four finish, the match was played versus an uncertain backdrop given Roman Abramovich’s alleged ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin.

The Premier League disqualified owner Roman Abramovich on Saturday after the United Kingdom government sanctioned him in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It left the club facing a string of stringent regulations to adhere to, including the closure of the club shop, inability to sell merchandise or offer new contracts to players.

Abramovich can still sell the club if the government grant him a license to do so, which would be on the proviso he does not personally profit from any sale.

Sources have told ESPN that numerous parties remain keen on buying Chelsea, counting New York Jets owner Robert “Woody” Johnson as well as Los Angeles Dodgers and LA Lakers part-owner Todd Boehly alongside Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.

While there’s major uncertainty off the pitch, both teams had a job to do on it with Chelsea looking to consolidate their place in the top four and Newcastle keen to pull further away from relegation worries. Eddie Howe’s side impressed in spells in the first half, with Dan Burn going close with a header before he was felled by a stray elbow from Havertz. David Coote handed Havertz a yellow card and a VAR check confirmed his decision amid some controversy.

The visit of Newcastle brought into focus further ownership questions, following their Saudi Arabia-led takeover completed with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) buying the club in October. The deal was met by strong public opposition in many quarters, given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Khashoggi had been critical of the Saudi government and was killed in an act determined by the United States government to have been directly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ruler of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the PIF.

A Saudi Arabia flag was unfurled in the away end at Stamford Bridge and some sections of the visiting support goaded Chelsea over their ownership uncertainty, with technical supervisor and former player Petr Cech stating before the match that Chelsea are operating on a “day to day” basis at present.

Newcastle wanted a penalty just before the hour mark when Trevoh Chalobah felled Jacob Murphy in the area but the referee waved away their calls before Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel introduced Romelu Lukaku in search for the breakthrough.Allan Saint-Maximin also came on from the bench with 20 minutes to go and Tuchel brought on Christian Pulisic but it was Havertz who had the final say, bringing down the ball majestically before finishing clinically to hand Chelsea the win.

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