Chelsea old boy Fabio Borini helped parent club Liverpool put one hand on the Premier League title, as Sunderland shocked Chelsea 2-1.
Jose Mourinho made 3 changes to the side that beat Swansea last week, with Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba making way for Oscar and Samuel Eto’o. The other change came in goal and with Petr Cech ill, this marked a Blues League debut for custodian Mark Schwarzer. The 41-year-old first start for the club meant the Australian became the oldest Chelsea player, breaking the record set by Graham Rix, then 37.
Chelsea started with confidence, and after 12 minutes Eto’o bagged his 12th goal of the season. The Cameroonian made the most of some poor marking from Willian’s corner, volleying in past Vito Mannone to open the scoring.
6 minutes later Sunderland drew level from a corner routine straight from the training ground. The ball was played out to full back Marcos Alonso, who drove a shot towards Schwarzer who could only manage to parry out into the path of in-form Connor Wickham, who scored his third goal in two games.
The Blues had a goal disallowed in controversial circumstances on the half hour mark. Nemanja Matic showed his strength to brush Jack Colback aside while nodding down for John Terry to volley it in. However, referee Mike Dean had deemed Matic to have fouled the Sunderland man, denying Terry his third goal of the season.
Vito Mannone proved a stubborn figure to get past with the travelling goalkeeper in fine form, denying further shots from Matic, Mohammed Salah and Willian. The ex-Arsenal stopper had also previously denied Branislav Ivanovic, tipping a close range header up onto the bar.
There was still enough time for drama in the first half as Chelsea had two penalty shouts waved away. Firstly Marcos Alonso looked to have used his hand while clearing an effort away, and moments later Ramires was bundled off the ball by Sebastian Larsson with the goal at his mercy.
Ramires was lucky to escape punishment himself when, assumedly irritated at the penalty not being given, appeared to elbow Larsson in the face right in front of Mike Dean.
Chelsea carried on pressing after the break, with a good chance falling to Samuel Eto’o, who could only manage to put it wide from a counter-attack.
Just like the game against Swansea, Sunderland piled men behind the ball, frustrating Chelsea and limiting them to shots from distance and playing outside of the box. Needing a goal and change in style, Mourinho brought on Demba Ba, signalling a more direct approach for the remaining half an hour.
However the striker, who scored two in his past two games, was guilty of perhaps the worst miss of the day, when a Willian cutback fell to him unmarked and 12 yards out, but skewed it horribly wide.
Sunderland dug their heels in, needing points for entirely different reasons to the hosts. Despite repeated efforts to get play up to Ba, the Black Cats held firm as Chelsea continued to pile on the pressure to get the breakthrough and reclaim pole position in the title race.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Chelsea were undone on the counter attack, with Cesar Azpilicueta slipping allowing Jozy Altidore to attack down the right hand side. Attempting to make amends, Azpilicueta could only succeed in bringing the American striker down despite marginal contact. The referee pointed to the spot and Fabio Borini, fittingly on loan from title rivals Liverpool, duly dispatching the penalty down the middle past Schwarzer. Assistant Rui Faria was incensed by the decision, and was sent to the stands for his protests.
Substitute Andre Schurrle forced an excellent save from the indomitable Mannone, with a dipping 30 yard strike tipped over by the Sunderland stopper. One last chance came and went as John Terry’s tame header was dealt with by Mannone, consigning the Blues to their first Stamford Bridge loss under Jose Mourinho, a 78 game unbeaten run.
The win will give Sunderland real hope of staying up, but the initiative is now with the Merseysiders for the title, who, assuming they defeat Norwich on Sunday will be five points clear with three to play. The game at Anfield now means a loss will rule the Blues out of the title race. However, as this result typifies, anything can and has happened this season. So while Liverpool are now rightfully favourites to win the Premier League, it’s not over yet!