Chelsea’s trip to Sunderland on Saturday afternoon is going to be a memory that the Chelsea players and supporters will soon want to forget. A 3-2 defeat at the Stadium of Light basically summed up Chelsea’s performances for much of the season, and their misery is compounded by the fact that a late red card for John Terry means that the Chelsea skipper will miss the last two matches of the season and will not play in the season finale at Stamford Bridge.
If Chelsea showed the fight and determination that has been lacking for most of the season in their 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, then this match against Sunderland saw them revert to type.
The Blues seemed a touch slower to every ball and failed to match the urgency and intensity of a Sunderland side fighting for their Premier League future and who entered the match just one point behind their rivals Newcastle United and have a game in hand.
Sunderland’s victory was buoyed in the second half after two goals in two minutes from Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe and sends the Black Cats into 17th place, just one point above Newcastle and having the aforementioned game in hand.
It’s not as if the warning signs weren’t there for Chelsea from the off. The Blues started the match quite slowly and perhaps a bit complacent and were nearly down to 10 men inside the first minute. Defoe made himself a menace throughout the match and nearly was sent clear on goal 45 seconds in before Gary Cahill hauled him down inside his own half.
Referee Mike Jones decided that Terry was close enough as the covering defender, and Cahill escaped with just a yellow card.
The threat from Defoe continued throughout the first half. A clipped ball from Lee Cattermole found Defoe’s head, his header striking the bottom of the post beyond Thibault Courtois, but was ruled offside in a rather tight decision.
Defoe was again involved in looking for a Sunderland opener when his cross from the left found an unmarked DeAndre Yedlin at the far post that forced Courtois into a low save.
Despite the threat from Sunderland, it was Chelsea that opened the scoring through Diego Costa in the 19th minute. Costa took a pass from Cahill that deflected off Yedlin and the striker made no mistake with a cool finish to far post past the diving Vito Mannone.
Sunderland found the equaliser their play deserved when a cleared header from Cahill was met by Wahbi Kazhri who volleyed spectacularly past Courtois for his first goal since February.
But the Blues would go in at half-time the much happier side when Nemanja Matic broke through the offside trap of Sunderland to latch on to a headed pass from Cesar Azpilicueta to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead.
Chelsea could have easily ended this contest early in the second half, but Diego Costa missed two gilt-edge chances, first from a through ball from Eden Hazard, second from a pass from Cesc Fabregas.
In the end, the Blues were made to pay for those misses. Controversially, Fabio Borini grabbed Sunderland’s second on 67 minutes when Patrick van Aanholt’s cross found him unmarked at the top of the penalty area, and the former Chelsea man made no mistake. However, Branislav Ivanovic had gone down with an injury and no whistle was blown in the build-up to the goal.
Just minutes later, Defoe grabbed the goal his play deserved, receiving a cross from Yedlin before spinning and half-volleying Sunderland into the lead before a second yellow card for John Terry on a 50-50 challenge saw the Chelsea skipper sent off and just compounded Chelsea’s misery on the day.