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Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea: Torres Double Sinks Black Cats

Fernando Torres bagged a brace as Chelsea put Sunderland to the sword with a 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light. The win keeps the Blues in touch with the top 2

Fernando Torres bagged a brace as Chelsea put Sunderland to the sword with a 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.

The Spaniard- who has come in for much criticism for his poor goal scoring form for Chelsea- sent the Blues on their way with a fine first-time finish after just 11 minutes. Torres then doubled his tally and Chelsea’s lead, scoring from the spot after Ramires was fouled in the area. Juan Mata made it three shortly after the break and whilst Adam Johnson replied for Sunderland the Blues ran out comfortable victors.

The win on Wearside ensured Chelsea’s dismal run of form (this was their first win in eight Premier League games) came to an end, much to the relief of interim boss Rafael Benitez who registered his first domestic win in four attempts. Both Torres and Benitez have come under fire over recent weeks but the compatriots will have eased the pressure coming from sections of their support, at least until their domestic campaign resumes later this month as the squad flies out to Japan to compete in the World Club Cup.

Benitez named an unchanged side from the one that hammered Nordsjaelland 6-1 in their mid-week Champions League encounter and the consistency shown paid dividends when Chelsea took an early lead. Victor Moses found Eden Hazard with space and the Belgium international had time to pick out Torres from the left; the latter steering home first time with the studs of his right boot.

The goal was richly deserved as the visitors seized control during the early stages; both Torres and Mata going close before the deadlock was broken. But the forced substitution of Oriol Romeu through a knee injury appeared to disrupt Chelsea and the hosts sought a way back into the match, nearly finding an equaliser first through Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin international found a yard on Gary Cahill before unleashing a fierce volley that was destined for the top corner but for Petr Cech’s save.

Just before the half hour mark Craig Gardner found space behind Chelsea’s back line before pulling back on the six-yard box. Fortunately for the visitors the ball was lashed wide and the danger averted. But the game swung back in Chelsea’s favour when Sebastien Larsson lunged wildly on Ramires in the penalty area. Torres placed the ball and, with just seconds of the first half to play, calmly converted the spot-kick, sending Simon Mignolet the wrong way.

The game then appeared to be over minutes into the restart when Mata reacted first to Torres’ turn and shot that hit the upright. The ex-Liverpool striker was inches away from his hat-trick however his fellow country-man failed to miss from close range after collecting the rebound.

Moses then had the chance to put the gloss on a so far comprehensive away performance when Mata fed him on the edge of the box but the ex-Wigan man shot off target, wasting a glorious chance. That miss appeared to buoy the home side somewhat as Adam Johnson lashed home from a tight angle on 66 minutes. Cech initially went to parry the effort but pulled away at the last minute, presumably thinking the ball was clearing his goal. But the England winger put on enough swerve for it to nestle in the far corner and gave Sunderland hope of a comeback.

It signalled a period of uneasiness in the Chelsea camp as Sunderland upped the tempo in search of goals. The Chelsea rearguard had to be on red-alert as the Black Cats- willed on by a vocal home support- seized control; Cahill and David Luiz performing their duties admirally. Goal-scorer Johnson went close with a 25-yard free-kick which Cech (this time) managed to get his palms behind, and Connor Wickham flashed a shot across goal.

As the clock ticked down Sunderland kept on coming and they nearly found a second when Gardner’s effort from a free-kick struck the bar. But despite an edgy end to the game Chelsea were resolute and proved good-value for their win, taking their chances clinically when they came their way. It is that combination of scoring whilst on-top and restricting the opposition to few chances that served Chelsea’s cup winning sides so well and they will need to demonstrate similar performances if they are to make up the 10-points that separate them and league leaders Manchester United.

The club now flies out to Japan to compete in the World Club Cup, a competition that pits various continental champions against each other. With that valuable first Premier League win under his belt, Benetiz may feel this competition has come at the wrong time as Man United could well have opened up a much more significant lead when the Blues return to domestic duties.

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