Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland: Blues stage second half comeback to snatch win
Chelsea came from behind to clinch all three points at Stamford Bridge as Sunderland conceded two second half goals in Paolo di Canio’s first game in charge.
Chelsea came from behind to clinch all three points as Sunderland conceded two second half goals in Paolo di Canio’s first game in charge at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
The visitors took a shock lead moments before half-time when Cesar Azpilicueta turned in to his own net following a corner. Parity was restored moments after the break when Matthew Kilgallon was unfortunate to have the ball rebound off him and past Simon Mignolet. And Branislav Ivanovich put the Blues ahead shortly after, helping the ball past Mignolet from a David Luiz strike.
The narrow win puts Rafael Benitez’s side back into the top three after last weekend’s defeat to Southampton saw them drop to fourth. Level on points with fourth placed Tottenham, the Blues leapfrog their London rivals on goal difference and with a game in hand they will be considered slight favourites in the race for third place.
The game was Chelsea’s third consecutive at Stamford Bridge after cup wins against Manchester United and Rubin Kazan in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively. Ivanovich was recalled in place of captain John Terry as Benitez made wholesale changes to Thursday’s line-up. Demba Ba was preferred to Fernando Torres as the lone striker while Oscar, Hazard and Mikel all started. Frank Lampard had to settle for a place on the bench.
The media were expecting fireworks as di Canio took his seat as Sunderland manager for the first time and the Black Cats certainly marked the Italian’s first game with a few sparks. Players clearly keen to impress their new boss, Sunderland made an explosive start to the game as Stephane Sessegnon powered into the box and struck into the side-netting. He might have done better to look up to find Connor Wickham in acres of space, but di Canio’s men were fired up and restricted Chelsea to little in the way of chances.
Happy to contain and counter, Sunderland again had Blues fans worrying when Sessegnon found Adam Johnson in a dangerous position on the right. The winger cut in with his favoured left foot but David Luiz was in the way to block. That did not stop the visitors taking the lead though and despite the decisive goal coming through a Chelsea player, the Black Cats will have felt it deserved after a brave and purposeful half.
Wickham’s effort was deflected behind for a corner and when John O’Shea flicked it on into the 6 -yard box Azpilicueta’s attempted clearance flew into the net as the Spaniard found himself off-balance.
Apart from the 20 minute interval the Blues were not behind for long. Chelsea cleared a Sunderland attack and Torres- introduced as a substitute for Ba- ran from the left inside to play in Oscar whose heavy touch allowed Mignolet to block his effort. Only the ball rebounded off Kilgallon and rolled agonisingly into the net before a red and white shirt could clear.
With the equaliser, Sunderland promptly fell to pieces while the home side grew in stature, playing some wonderful football through the likes of Juan Mata and the Brazilian Oscar. On one of many forays forward, David Luiz picked up a looping cross on the edge of the area and his shot was directed into the net via Ivanovich’s right leg. The three goals owed much to a slice of fortune, as the Serbian’s deflection completely wrong-footed Mignolet.
With half an hour still to play, Chelsea set about taking a commanding score-line with substitute Torres particularly impressing with his relentless running and harassing of the Sunderland defence. And Chelsea could well have added to their tally had they not been so wasteful, missing a glut of chances against a now dis-jointed Sunderland.
Mata and Oscar combined well before the latter crossed for Torres, however the Spaniard’s header was high over the bar when he had the time and space to compose himself. David Luiz found himself on the wrong end of a crunching Craig Gardner tackle, who was perhaps lucky to escape a red card following a high challenge in the first half. David Luiz then handed out his own justice on Wickham with a heavy tackle.
Johnson went close before the end for Sunderland, his effort flying narrowly wide but it was an isolated chance in a second half in which di Canio’s men struggled to influence themselves as they had in the first half. And with the sound of the final whistle came the realisation of the enormity of the Italian’s task to keep the Black Cats in the Premier League.
For Chelsea, the win takes them back into third spot as the race for a top-four finish hots up. With seven games left to play in the league, an FA Cup semi final already booked and a Europa League semi-final on the horizon, Chelsea took a vital step in the final stage of a season which may still yield success.
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