Newcastle 3 Chelsea 0
A defiant Antonio Conte insisted he expects to remain Chelsea boss next season despite failing to qualify for the Champions League.
The Blues, who face Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley next Saturday, saw their faint hopes of overhauling fourth-placed Liverpool on the final day of the Premier League season go up in smoke courtesy of a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle.
Ayoze Perez struck twice to end Chelsea’s faint hopes of Champions League qualification as Newcastle secured a top-10 finish on their return to the Premier League.
The Blues, who face Manchester United in the FA Cup final next Saturday, simply did not turn up for what many believe could be Antonio Conte’s final league game at the helm and were beaten 3-0 at St James’ Park.
Dwight Gayle headed the home side into a 23rd-minute lead they richly deserved, and Perez’s second-half double ended a run of four successive defeats and clinched 10th place, fuelling fresh calls from the stands for manager Rafael Benitez to extend his stay on Tyneside.
Speculation is rife that Conte will leave Stamford Bridge this summer, but asked if the final will be his last game in charge, he replied: “Do you think so? You have the news?
“No, I don’t think so. For this season, for sure. Now we have to play the last game in the FA Cup and then, as you know very well because I am repeating always the same thing, I am committed to this club.
“For me, this is important, not speculation around me. It’s not important. The most important thing is what the club thinks, not you or the speculation about me.
“I have a contract and the club know very well the situation. After Saturday, we go on vacation and then we will see next season.”
The deposed champions needed to win at St James’ Park and Liverpool to lose at home to Brighton if they were to snatch a top-four finish.
Asked to assess the damage, Conte said: “I think I’m the last person to speak about this. You can ask the club what is the damage to finish out of the Champions League.
“I have worked with my players this season and I think it’s not right to say something about this because there are other people to judge our season and judge the problem of finishing out of the Champions League.
“There was a great frustration because in our minds, we had the will to finish the season in the best possible way and instead from the start, we didn’t show the right will to finish the season in the best possible way.
“Newcastle outplayed us and they deserved to win. But I’m the first person to answer for this.”
Benitez’s future as Newcastle boss also remains uncertain as talks over a contract extension continue.
He said: “I have said all along that I want to do things sooner rather than later. We are still talking, so we will see.” However, the Spaniard was delighted to see his team end a four-game losing streak in style.
He said: “The way the team has worked during the whole season, to be safe with five games to play, it was a pity, the bad run we had at the end and we needed to try to do something to change the luck.
“We did it against Tottenham and it wasn’t enough; we did it today and it was a perfect day for the fans, for the players, for everyone.
“Tenth position, great game, three good goals, great atmosphere during the whole game and at the end, so you could say it was a nearly perfect Sunday.”
Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Shelvey, Diame (Haidara 87), Ritchie (Hayden 72), Perez, Murphy, Gayle (Joselu 48).
Subs not used: Manquillo, Merino, Darlow, Jesus Gamez.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Barkley (Willian 77), Kante,Bakayoko, Emerson, Hazard (Pedro 82), Giroud (Morata 77).
Subs not used: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Fabregas.
Ref: Martin Atkinson.
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