Every man and his dog knew how important a win at the Stadium of Light was for the Blues’, and the champions of Europe began in rampant fashion. Starting the day 10 points behind leaders Manchester United, the rut had to stop today. Frank Lampard returned to the squad after 11 games out, whilst Jon Obi Mikel made a start on his 3 match domestic ban, Terry and Sturridge still deemed unfit. Oriol Romeu made his second start of the week, as did Victor Moses.
Mike Jones held his nerve last week to send off Wigan defender Manuel Figueroa early on, but his colleague Mark Halsey absolutely bottled sending off Black Cats’ midfielder Sebastian Larsson after a obvious pull on Eden Hazard as he broke into the box. Mata then should have shot when squared for Torres before a clumsy clearance fell for the Spaniard, only to be foiled by Mignolet’s quick reactions. Chelsea’s number 9 would however soon have his say.
Released by Moses, Hazard dinked a ball for the striker to finish with ease inside the box, reminiscent of the goal he scored at Arsenal earlier this season. Chelsea were playing expansively and fast, leaving Martin O’Neill was a man bedraggled, barking ‘g’wan, na, na, na, g’wan!’ in his technical area what one can only assume was Ancient Gaelic.
Sunderland did begin to take hold of possession, although threatening only from dead balls maintained well by Cahill and Luiz. ‘We don’t care about Rafa, he don’t care about us’ was the song from the Chelsea support.
Halsey should have at least booked Phil Bardsley in the 37th minute after an obvious rash stud-showing challenge on Juan Mata. Bardsley, the unloved pit bull, received a retrospective 4-match ban for stamping on the little Spainard last season. Lovely chap.
Finally, moments before half-time Halsey could not say no when Larsson ridiculously hacked Ramires down on the by-line. Torres stepped up. We dare to believe he is back. I liked the fact he stepped up, even with David Luiz on the field. I always feel a forward should be confident from twelve yards; 2 today, 4 in a week, 11 in 25 this season.
Chelsea came out of the traps with real intent in the second half. A magnificent effort against the woodwork was followed up by Mata to make it 3-0 to the Blues’. Viva la España!
Adam Johnson pinged a decent effort into the back of Cech’s net in the 65th minute, which the Chelsea keeper certainly misjudged. Cech would later deny the England winger was a fabulous save from 25 yards. Apart from chucking balls and deep free kicks toward the Chelsea box, Sunderland did not penetrate the Blues’ defence with any real purpose.
A good day for the Blues’ up north. Solid performances across the park with the defence shackling the late Sunderland fight back, Torres showing more desire under Benitez and our first league win in what seems like a lifetime.
Oscar replaced Romeu in the 20th minute, and with Mikel suspended for the Leeds cup-tie and Villa at home, he has been sent to a doctor’s in London and Rafa Benitez has little hope of him travelling to Japan. Ramires picked up his 5th yellow card of the campaign ruling him out of the Capital One Cup tie. All the more important that Frank Lampard got his first minutes since being injured in Donetsk.
Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic, Romeu, Ramires, Hazard, Moses, Mata, Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Azpilicueta, Bertrand, Lampard, Oscar, Marin.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Cuellar, O’Shea, Rose, McClean, Larsson, Gardner, Johnson, Sessegnon, Wickham. Subs: Westwood, Bramble, Kilgallon, Colback, Vaughan, Campbell.
Referee: Mark Halsey.
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