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Brave Sunderland fall victim to quality of Chelsea

Sunderland 2 vs. Chelsea 4

Date: 1st February 2011

            Chelsea edged a hard fought contest against high flying Sunderland  at the Stadium of Light. Early goals from Bardsley and Richardson, weren’t enough for the black cats who lost out to the London club 2-4.

            The game started with all of the fire and fury that was so clearly lacking from the Tyne-Wear derby two weeks ago. Sunderland pressed Chelsea high up the pitch, much like they had done earlier in the season when they beat the blues 0-3 at Stamford Bridge. Just like that game, Steve Bruce’s tactics appeared to be working as Chelsea struggled to take control of the game and miss placed passes in the midfield.

            The breakthrough came for came for Sunderland just 4 minutes into the match. John Terry misplaced a pass at the back and the ball quickly found its way to Phil Bardsley in space on the half way line who charged down the left flank before skipping past Jose Bosingwa and planting the ball in the far corner of the net. The big goal keeper could have perhaps done better with the shot but could not cope with a full back that in recent weeks has shown the composure and finesse of an experience centre forward.

            As many teams do, Sunderland did not continue with the approach that had got them in the lead, but instead sat back and tried to hit Chelsea on the counter attack. Had Gyan latched on to one of Jordan Henderson’s long passes then it could well have paid off, however, all it did was to allow the shaken Chelsea team time on the ball and soon were camped inside the Sunderland half. The goal was coming and when Ahmed Elmohamady bundled over Ashley Cole in the area, Mike Halsey pointed to the spot. It was harsh on Elmohamady who only had eyes for the ball, but you’ve seen them given. Frank Lampard, cool as ever, dispatched the penalty to his favoured left side.

            The goal revitalised the home side who once more employed a higher pressing game and just as in the first half it seemed to be working. The only problem with pressing high up the pitch is that you leave a lot of space in behind the defence, and Salomon Kalou exploited this space on 23 minutes when a misplaced pass found Didier Drogba who put Kalou through on goal. Craig Gordon, despite having an excellent game for the most part, had a rush of blood and decided to try to get to the ball 10 yards outside of his area. The decision proved catastrophic as Kalou was left with the simple task of poking the ball around Gordon and into the empty net.

            The game looked as though it could have already been beyond Sunderland, even after their excellent start but just 3 minutes later Elmohamady was brought down just outside of the area after a marauding run down the right. Cole was lucky not to see yellow for the challenge, but was not so lucky moments later when Kieran Richardson rolled the ball into the goal after the wall jumped. Richardson’s third goal in two games was much to delight of the home fans.

            The rest of the first half was a pretty even affair. Chelsea had the best chance on 35 minutes when Lampard’s corner wasn’t cleared properly and Branislav Ivanovic cannoned the ball of the underside of the crossbar. The crossbar was rattled once again 5 minutes into the second period after Gordon somehow managed to push a John Terry shot away from the top corner.

            Gordon was called into action once again after Sunderland failed to clear yet another corner and Essien was denied a tap in from less than a yard. Fittingly, the breakthrough came from a corner, although this one highly controversial, Terry appeared to have shot wide, however after appealing to the linesman, was awarded a corner. Lampard found space on the edge of the box and Gordon’s save was straight to Terry. The ex-England captain found the top corner with a tidy finish.

            The game still all had the fire and fight of the first half and Mike Halsey struggled to control it. 50-50 decisions went the way of the away team to such an extent that Steve Bruce unleashed his frustrations on a nearby drinks bottle, launching it into the crowd. Asamoah Gyan appeared to be trying to imitate his manager moments later blazing the ball into row Z from 30 yards. The Ghanaian was quite all night and still seems to be adapting to the pace of the premier league.

            Steed Malbranque lead by example giving his all for the cause, and whilst Sunderland clearly had the passion and desire to win the game, fatigue was setting in and poor final balls meant they were unable to fashion any real openings. Bruce through on some fresh legs in the way of Cook and Colback for the last 5, but to no avail. Late in injury time Nicholas Anelka showed that extra bit of quality, dancing around Bramble, laying it wide to Malouda, before cooling slotting the return ball with the outside of his foot.

            Chelsea may have taken all three points but the Black Cats will be proud of the effort that their side gave, if still a little worried about where the goals will come from for the rest of the season.

Sunderland Side: Gordon, Onuoha (Cook 87), Ferdinand, Bramble, Bardsley, Elmohamady, Henderson, Malbranque (Colback 81), Richardson, Sessengnon, Gyan.

Chelsea Side: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Essien, Lampard, Mikel (Ramires 77), Kalou (Malouda 81), Anelka, Drogba.

Referee: Mike Halsey

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