Match Review: Sunderland vs Chelsea
Despite being labelled as a match devoid of excitement, the Sunderland-Chelsea match at the Stadium of Light was of vital importance to both teams, as Chelsea looked to recover from their Novermber slump and Sunderland wanted to get wins against a Chelsea side that had been appearing tame of late. The match ended in Chelsea’s favour, as Torres proved to be Sunderland’s undoing with a quick-fire double that took his season’s tally to a respectable, to say the least, 11 goals, with only Michu, van Persie and Suarez above him on the European leader board from the Barclays Premier League.
Chelsea have had quite a slump in their form in the past few weeks, where they went without a win for 7 games in the Premier League. Sunderland, on the other hand, have only had the taste of victory twice so far this season, and were close to the relegation zone. Chelsea were also without a win in the Premier League under their new manager Rafa Benitez, and Sunderland seemed to be the easiest target to break the trend with, given Chelsea’s 14-0-1 Win-Draw-Loss record against Sunderland in the Premier League. It was also an opportunity for Chelsea’s misfiring hitman, Fernando Torres, to score his 100th Premier League goal, something he had been waiting for since October, as he hit a goal drought in the Premier League following the 4-1 rout of Norwich City in early October.
The team remained unchanged from Chelsea’s win against Nordsjaelland, with John Terry out due to injury and Mikel serving the first of his 3-match-ban. It also saw the inclusion of Frank Lampard in the substitutes.
Sunderland too had an unchanged team for the most of it, with Steven Fletcher failing to clear a late medical test and John O’Shea coming back to captain his side.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Romeu (Oscar 19); Moses (Bertrand 60), Mata, Hazard (Lampard 78); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Fereira, Azpilicueta, Marin.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Bardsley (Colback 67), O’Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Larsson (Saha 80), Gardner; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Wickham.
Unused substitutes: Westwood, Bramble, Vaughan, Kilgallon, Campbell.
The match started right off the bat, with Chelsea advancing in droves to get their first win under Rafa. The game could have tilted towards Chelsea in the first minute itself, as Hazard was at the receiving end of a beautiful set up by Ramires and Mata, and was only denied due to Sunderland goalkeeper Mignolet’s quick thinking and even quicker feet as he came out and smothered the ball.
The same combination of players recreated their magic again, and this time it was Mata in the shooting position, but the Spaniard fluffed the shot as it went wide. Torres, too, had a good opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet early in the game, when his shot was blocked and cleared by Carlos Cuellar.
Chelsea got their first goal of the game around the 11th minute, thanks to a quick break due to a rather debatable tackle by Oriol Romeu, who passed the ball to Moses, who subsequently distributed it to Hazard. The Belgian took his own sweet time crossing the ball into the penalty box where Torres was waiting to receive it, and he did so beautifully, with the bottom of his boot nudging the ball into the top left corner.
Chelsea continued to look like the better of the two sides, especially in their final third, but quickly needed a formation change as Oriol Romeu went down clutching his leg following some hobbling about after a challenge by Larsson. Oscar was brought on and Chelsea now had 4 midfielders playing behind Torres.
The match went on, with Referee Mark Halsey becoming the villain in the eyes of the Sunderland fans, who felt his decisions went against them and their team.
Sunderland soon seemed to pull up their socks and introduce themselves to Chelsea, as they grew menacingly difficult to deal with as the half wore on. Petr Cech, however, came to Chelsea’s rescue as (temporary) Captain Fantastic made a save worthy of his stature to deny Sessegnon following an unconvincing clearance by Cahill. Craig Gardener too had a stunning crack at goal from outside the penalty box, but Cech denied them on that occasion too.
Sunderland continued being every bit as menacing as Chelsea’s frontmen, and it took the commanding figure of Cech to deny the Sunderland strikers from meeting the crosses whipped in by McClean and Johnson.
Chelsea’s attacking department started appearing tame once again, with only one decent attempt in the form of an Oscar cross, which was fumbled by Hazard and Mata.
Right around half time, Ramires was tackled clumsily by Larsson, and Halsey had no apprehensions in pointing to the penalty spot. Torres decided to do the honors on the occasion, and found himself on the scoreboard for the second time, as Mignolet dived the wrong way, giving Torres his 11th goal of the campaign.
3 minutes after the match resumed following the break, Mata scored his 3rd goal in 3 games, as Torres was denied getting his 3rd of the day, his powerful left footed shot crashing against the woodwork. Mata was the quickest to react and smashed a left footed shot into the net, giving Chelsea an unassailable lead effectively.
The match wore on, with Mata getting cautioned, luckily for him, since a red card wouldn’t have been too out of place, after he lashed out in anger towards Larsson. Benitez also decided to give a rest to the impressive Moses, bringing on Ryan Bertrand.
Sunderland also managed pull Chelsea back to a two-goal lead, when Johnson picked up the ball in the left corner of the penalty box and went for goal instead of crossing with a vicious curling kick.
Benitez also decided to introduce veteran midfielder Lampard into the game, who marked his arrival instantly by testing the keeper with a powerful shot from outside the penalty box.
Both Ramires and Ivanovic also picked up yellow cards, spelling trouble for the Blues as Ramires will now have to sit out one match due to his 5th yellow card of the season.
Craig Gardener again looked like a favourite to score with a free kick, which bounced back off the post, leaving Chelsea the victors by a margin of two.
The match ended with a 3-1 scoreline, promoting Chelsea to the third spot on the table, behind the two Manchester Clubs who shall be locking horns today. Sunderland fell one place from their position in the points table and are now in the relegation zone. Chelsea shall appear to have a fairly decent chance of catching up with the Manchester duo if City are to beat United tonight.