By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at St James' Park
Alan Shearer could not prevent a third straight home defeat for Newcastle
Alan Shearer's return to Newcastle United ended in bitter disappointment as Chelsea outlined the size of the task awaiting the man brought back to St James' Park to navigate a route away from relegation.
Shearer's return as manager until the end of the season was the catalyst for a wave of optimism that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley hoped would provide the impetus for a move out of the Premier League danger zone.
Chelsea, however, were in no mood to indulge the dreams of the expectant Geordie nation - merely plunging them into further turmoil as they comfortably outclassed Shearer's new charges.
Frank Lampard broke the deadlock with a 56th-minute header after Nicolas Anelka's shot had been deflected on to the bar and Florent Malouda wrapped up the win from close range nine minutes later.
Newcastle had justified claims that they were denied a goal late on when Ashley Cole appeared to clear Michael Owen's shot from behind the line - but this would only have papered over the cracks in a side now in serious danger of the drop.
Shearer, assisted by new right-hand man Iain Dowie, was an impassive figure for much of the game and marched away grim-faced at the final whistle with the look of a manager who was now fully aware of how much work needs doing - and quickly - to turn Newcastle around.
We were punished for mistakes - Shearer
Even Newcastle's fans were subdued long before the end, but they had been given little to cheer and were still pledging noisy allegiance to Shearer at the final whistle.
Newcastle now face a crucial visit to Stoke City next Saturday, knowing they will need to produce a huge improvement on this display to hold any hopes of bringing anything back from The Britannia Stadium.
There was a crackling atmosphere on Tyneside before kick-off - with even the arrival of Newcastle's team bus receiving an ecstatic reception.
When Shearer made his entrance seconds before kick-off it was in low-key fashion, but he was still afforded a huge ovation from the Toon Army, elated at the return of their iconic former striker.
It was actually Chelsea who settled quicker in the early stages, instantly banishing suggestions they might be unnerved by the Shearer factor.
Shearer spent most of the first half in his technical area, occasionally turning to new assistant Dowie to make tactical adjustments, especially in a defence that was too easily unsettled.
It took a fine reaction save from goalkeeper Steve Harper to stop Salomon Kalou puncturing the buoyant mood created by Shearer's return when Chelsea threatened after 18 minutes.
Newcastle's response came courtesy of sheer effort rather than any great attacking quality, and their best chance fell to Obafemi Martins, who bundled a cross from Jonas Gutierrez wide at the near post.
Anelka showed his pace to streak clear of the Newcastle rearguard on the half-hour, but a combination of keeper Harper and Habib Beye managed to snuff out his threat.
Shearer - who was adopting a businesslike demeanour and even occasionally ignored calls from the home fans to acknowledge their cheers - was forced into a reshuffle shortly before the interval when winger Peter Lovenkrands got a knock in the back and was struggling badly before he was stretchered off.
Newcastle, despite the injection of adrenalin sparked by Shearer's presence, looked short on confidence and quality and Chelsea resumed control once more after the interval.
The powerful Michael Essien played in Malouda, who was denied once more by Harper - but it was only a brief reprieve and it was no more than Chelsea deserved when they went ahead after 56 minutes.
Fabricio Coloccini's flimsy attempt at a clearance allowed Anelka in, and when his shot was deflected on to the bar Lampard was first to react and head home.
The goal deflated the atmosphere immediately, as Newcastle's fans realised not even Shearer's appointment would act as an instant fix for their side's very obvious shortcomings.
Hiddink happy with Chelsea performance
Chelsea wrapped up the points and ended the possibility of a dream return for Shearer with a second goal nine minutes later, when Petr Cech's long clearance was flicked on by Anelka and Lampard found Malouda, who was able to score virtually unchallenged.
Newcastle thought they had grabbed a lifeline with 18 minutes remaining when Owen lofted a finish over Cech - Cole smuggled the ball away but replays suggested the ball had in fact crossed the line.
As Shearer stood motionless in the technical area, Chelsea - urged on by their fans who relished taunting the new boss with chants of "You're Getting Sacked In The Morning" - threatened to rub salt in the wounds in the closing minutes.
Substitute Michael Ballack saw a shot saved by Harper and Franco di Santo's elegant long-range effort was only inches away.
Harper, defiant to the end, then saved from Malouda as he raced clear in injury time as Chelsea simply emphasised the superiority they had shown from the start.
The gulf in class was embarrassing as the action moved to its conclusion, with Harper denying Lampard Chelsea's third.
And when referee Rob Styles sounded the final whistle, the silence around St James' Park could not have contrasted more with the noise that greeted Shearer at the start of his reign.
If Shearer had any doubts about the size of the job confronting him - and it is unlikely he did - the performance of his new charges had made him grimly aware of the reality.
Newcastle chairman Derek Llambias had claimed relegation was "unthinkable", but on this evidence it is a serious possibility as Shearer gets down to the serious business of reviving a team stripped of confidence.
Harper, Ryan Taylor, Beye, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Nolan (Guthrie 69), Butt, Lovenkrands (Duff 44), Owen, Martins (Carroll 81).
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