Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland – Wonders Never Cease

It was Fabio Borini, who spent two years at Chelsea, who eased the title towards his parent club Liverpool. It was Gus Poyet, the scorer of that majestic scissor kick goal against Sunderland, who masterminded this sensational defeat, almost certainly kicking us out of the title race and kicking Jose Mourinho’s imperious home record of 77 unbeaten into the history books. Wonders never cease.

Match report

For Mourinho’s incredible record at Stamford Bridge to be ended one day was widely anticipated, but for it to have been the team at the bottom of the league to do it adds to the sense of regret. We lacked inspiration, penetration and creativity, sinful for a team so full of offensive talent. As Sunderland resisted our conservative, but assertive pressure well, defending stoically, we probed to little effect.

It was a languid performance. Our defence was uncharacteristically insecure, with Mark Schwarzer, covering for the ill Petr Cech, culpable for Connor Wickham’s equalising goal, cancelling out Samuel Eto’o’s opener, and Cesar Azpilicueta conceding a debatable late spot-kick, dispatched by Borini. We missed Eden Hazard – his silky trickery and turn of pace could have helped in opening up this stout Sunderland back-line.

Despite our apathetic start, we were in the ascendency after 12 minutes. Eto’o was alert and nimble, beating John O’Shea to Willian’s corner delivery to finish superbly, volleying home his ninth goal of the season, all registered at home. His celebratory dance forced Mourinho into laughter, but his amusement would be short-lived.

Cech’s omission and Schwarzer’s inclusion was a surprise, with Cech unavailable through a viral infection. Wickham’s equaliser embodied the lacklustre nature of our performance. Marcos Alonso was left unmarked at the edge of the box, and when Schwarzer spilled the Spaniard’s strike, Wickham reacted first to finish calmly. His remarkable renaissance of late continued, netting to score only the second opposition goal at the Bridge in 2014.

Vito Mannone, whose error denied Sunderland three points at Manchester City on Wednesday evening, thwarted Oscar twice, one a speculative strike and the other a well-struck free-kick. Sunderland, and the Italian keeper in particular, resisted the mounting Chelsea pressure well. Branislav Ivanovic’s header crashed against the crossbar. Both Nemanja Matic and Willian were excellently thwarted by Mannone before he rose to block Willian’s effort and O’Shea disrupted Ramires’s header at a gaping goal. Denial of a goal-scoring opportunity? Possibly.

We ramped up the pressure looking for the decisive second goal after the interval. Willian sprung forward and fed Eto’o, whose subsequent curling strike strayed tantalizingly from the goal. We appealed in vain for a penalty for perceived Sunderland shirt-pulling. Oscar’s tamely-struck effort was gathered with relative ease.

Mourinho began to grow more anxious, responding to the introduction of Emmanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore by bringing on Andre Schurrle and the in-form Demba Ba, whose first, and most prominent involvement, was to skew an effort horribly wide.

Sunderland resorted to cynical challenges to keep us at bay, first Lee Cattermole on Oscar and then Wes Brown on Ba, earning the former Manchester United centre-half a merited caution. Then came the decisive moment, with Borini netting from the spot as the game neared its conclusion. We hurried for an equaliser, Schurrle forcing the outstanding Mannone into a wonderful save.

Next season will be ours

The fact that we were, and still are, in contention for the title without a prolific goal-scorer, similar to those of Liverpool or Manchester City, is true testament to Jose’s managerial mastery. Our profligacy this season has been hugely detrimental in our bid for the league crown and if we had the likes of Atletico’s Diego Costa at our disposal, who would be a substantial upgrade on Fernando Torres, maximum points would probably have been secured at Everton, Newcastle, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa. Next season will be ours.

Looking on the bright side

Regardless of the disappointment in losing the truly incredible home record set by Jose Mourinho, of 77 games unbeaten, the achievement itself is stellar. A unique record.

Atletico preview

Jose must somehow galvanise his players ahead of the trip to the Vincente Calderon stadium. Atletico are excelling in this season’s absorbing La Liga title race, guided by the visionary Diego Simeone. They lead the Spanish league thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of Thibaut Courtois, who will most probably play on Tuesday, the creativity of Koke, so often their architect, and the lethal prowess of Diego Costa, hopefully destined for SW6 this summer.

Yet, despite their undoubted strengths, Atletico were my preferred semi-final opposition. Were we to advance past Simeone’s men, Mourinho is capable of lifting aloft the Champions League in his homeland, with Lisbon being a short drive away from his hometown of Setúbal. He knows Real Madrid well, and August’s Super Cup is evidence that Bayern are beatable, as we succumbed to Romelu Lukaku’s unfortunate penalty woe. Pep Guardiola’s team have improved during the course of the season, but so have we.

Chelsea: Schwarzer 5; Ivanovic 5, Terry 6, Cahill 6, Azpilicueta 6; Matic 5, Ramires 6; Salah 6 (Schurrle 66), Oscar 5 (Ba, 59), Willian 7; Eto’o 6 (Torres 74). Subs not used: Hilario, Luiz, Lampard, Mikel.

Sunderland: Mannone 6; Vergini 5, Brown 6, O’Shea 6, Alonso 6; Larsson 6 (Celustka 90), Cattermole 5, Colback 6, Johnson 5 (Giaccherini 65); Wickham 7 (Altidore 66), Borini 5. Subs not used: Ustari, E-H Ba, Scocco, Mavrias.

Referee: Mike Dean

There are 31 comments

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  1. ninjawebby

    So no mention of the deliberate elbow in Larson’s face!!!! Just choose to mentions decisions that go against you and not the ones for you, just like your manager typical…

  2. WorkingClassPost

    Good point about 77 being a fantastic achievement and, on reflection, had it continued much longer it would’ve become a big distraction and just another source of pressure for the media to bang on about.

    Just for the record, so to speak, it’s much better that none of the proper red teams made the dent in Jose’s CV, can you imagine the feeding frenzy if one of the bigger teams had been first to win at the Bridge? Brilliant tactician, masterclass, blah blah blah.

    Probably quite fitting also, that it took an ex-Chelsea player to do what Fergy, Arsy and all the others couldn’t do.

    Time to start the next 77+

    • Ahmed Osoble

      Yup, fully with you there. No reason why we can’t go on another run, Jose is imperious at home regardless of what country/team.

  3. Ramone

    I don’t subscribe to ‘the ref lost us the game’ spiel. I felt that we took our foot off the pedal after going one up in the first half and lost the initiative. I also felt that we lost our shape in the second half chasing the winner. Losing our shape chasing the winner has happened previously this season (e.g. Cardiff at home) but has usually resulted in a goal and reversion to our usual shape. In the Cardiff game we almost conceded before scoring. In this game the gamble didn’t pay off, we didn’t score and it all fell apart. You can’t get it right all the time.

    So, just like Villa away, we should be looking at ourselves. I’m sure that’s what happens in private, and I’m sure that Mourinho’s post match rants are just a means to get the decisions next time around.

    Solid performance. Mikel on fire as holder and central defender #3. Terry and Cahill superb. Worried about injuries and suspensions for the second leg. Willian looks knackered. 50/50 for the second leg.

    • Blue_MikeL

      Well for sure it is us who have lost the game and not ref. However, you wouldn’t deny that two pens could have helped, would you?.

      • Ramone

        Ramires being shoved was a pen. Ramires elbow was a sending off. I don’t think that Azpi on Altidore was a pen but in real time it was much less clear cut than in slow-mo replay. The interesting thing was that the ref was best placed to see it wasn’t a pen, but he went with the decision of the lino. I guess I’m just saying that, when going for the league, we shouldn’t have to rely on refs to beat Sunderland at home.

        • Blue_MikeL

          There was handball as well – outstretched arm, which is very clear pen. Ramires deserved red, but then again rightly appointed pen could have spared this outburst by Ramires.

  4. WorkingClassPost

    It’s never fun to lose, but to wimp out of title by hanging on to a draw would’ve been much worse in my book.

    Losing games is like conceding goals, it only matters in the context of how many you win/score yourself and where you end up at the end of the season.

    It was galling that their guy stuck his leg out so blatantly to engineer some sort of ‘contact’, but however bad those decisions were, they would likely have been made at Anfield anyway, because there is absolutely no way we would get a fair shake if there was a chance of installing poo as champs now that manu and gooners are goners.

    Probably best to take the knock, and settle for winning back our European title.

    Also. Although Schwarzer might’ve contributed to their first, that run out may have given him the edge when we needed him in Madrid, and I thought his catching was superb on the night. Just as well, because they do like to hump the ball into the box.

    • Ahmed Osoble

      I agree, Jose is correct to prioritize the UCL. On Schwarzer, with Fabianski, I think he’s the best second keeper in the Prem.

  5. Ramone

    Moving on. Discussion topic #738.

    What team will we put out v Liverpool ?
    Schwazer, Kalas, Ivan, Cahill, Cash, Matic, Van Ginkel, Salah, Lamps, Shirley, Ba

    What team will we put out v Athletico ?
    Schwazer, Azpi, Ivan, Cahill, Cash, Luiz, Ramires, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Eto’o

    Nailed on I reckon. And we’ll win both.

    • Ahmed Osoble

      We could play Mikel instead of MVG, seeing as he’s suspended for the return leg and impressed v Atletico.

  6. limetreebower

    Whatever team we put out on Sunday, José’s planted the idea that it’ll be his reserves, so if we lose we’ll all be able to shrug our shoulders and claim that the ‘Poo are only champions because we let them be.

    Everyone knows how annoying this is, of course, but no one will quite be able to dismiss the idea entirely.

    The man’s a demented kind of genius.

    • WorkingClassPost

      Can’t help wondering what the reaction would be if this was in reverse, and we were threatening to put out a ‘weak’ side against City and poo might then suffer. Outrage and indignation for sure, and calls of foul play from all and sundry.

      Of course, with the depth of our squad (and with some of our performances), it’s sometimes difficult to know what constitutes a weak side, anyway.

      • limetreebower

        Well, exactly: the whole “weak side” thing is a bit of a red herring, isn’t it? But a very useful one.

        It would be sort of fun to see Van Ginkel, Ake, Kalas all out there (as long as they didn’t get slaughtered). But I suspect the “weak side” will look very much as Ramone and Ahmed suggest below.

        Nevertheless, there’ll be the nagging implication that if we’d played Hazard, Oscar and Willian we’d have ended up winning the league. Nonsense, of course, and yet somehow rather pleasingly convenient for annoying everyone else.

        It’d be even better if we could win the CL playing exactly the same way we did last Tuesday, thus causing helpless spluttering outrage from absolutely everyone.

  7. WorkingClassPost

    Just had a quick trawl to see today’s lineup before heading out to watch, but nothing doing yet.

    I’d be reasonably confident whoever we play within reason, given that our tactical training must be similar for the whole squad. Lots will depend on how we handle poo’s initial onslaught and/or how poo handle the pressure of getting close to actually winning something.

    Hoping that the negative press doesn’t bother us, because a win is still a win, and the season ain’t over yet.

  8. Blue_MikeL

    No Cech
    No Cahill
    No Terry
    No Luiz
    No Ramires
    No Oscar
    No Hazard
    No Willian
    No Eto’o
    No Torres

    But Chelsea is still Winning !!!!!!

  9. limetreebower

    Prepare for a tsunami of Scouse whingeing.


    I wonder how many managers would get a performance like that out of players who know they’re third choice?

  10. Ramone

    After a cold shower and time to reflect I think we should take our hats off to Tomas Kalas.

    21 years old and as cool as a cucumber. Well done to him.

    I wonder if we’ll see more of him next year ………………….

  11. WorkingClassPost

    Superb performances all round, and pleasantly surprised by the MOTD bods who were full of praise for a job well done.

    Also surprised by all the talk of time wasting, when we just seemed to be playing the game at our own pace rather than theirs; our prerogative for sure, and up to them to take their throws etc quickly if that’s what they wanted to do.

  12. limetreebower

    I didn’t see the game, but by all accounts the time-wasting was pretty blatant.

    But then … As numerous people have pointed out, the ‘Poo would have been in a very strong situation with a draw. And we’d have been eliminated with a draw. So what was it about? Presumably the idea was to irritate and disrupt the crowd and make the ‘Poo players agitated; seems to have worked absolutely perfectly.

    Part of José’s genius is that not only does he inspire his own players to astonishing feats of devotion and concentration, but he also sends the oppo players into impotent frothing madness.

    I browsed the papers in a library this morning and every single article I read said that ours was an eminently praiseworthy performance, and that the predictable accusations of Aunty Football were missing the point. Everyone seems to understand that 2-0 at Anfield is an excellent result, no matter how it’s achieved.

    I do feel a bit sorry for Gerrard though. One-club man, a proper captain, always thoughtful and graceful as an interviewee, seems like a thoroughly decent chap, and doesn’t deserve to be remembered for throwing away perhaps his only chance of a league title. (The ‘Poo have massively overachieved this year, they don’t have a deep squad, they’ll have Europe to deal with next season, and ourselves, Citeh and the hated Manc scum will all be better next year: I doubt the ‘Poo will have a better chance in the near future.)

    That said, you just know that there are going to be some weird results in the last couple of games.

    • WorkingClassPost

      No, not all accounts, and I’m surprised at you LTB paying any heed to what you hear about CFC.

      As you rightly say what point would there be to wasting time at 0-0?

      The ref had presumably been briefed, and spent as much time waving his watch in the air as our old adversary Fergie used to do.

      Perhaps it was because we were so well disciplined and didn’t give many excuses for him to award anything else to them, so a delay in re-starting the game was all he could get us on.

      I recall one occasion when CA (I think) went to take a throw-in, and the ref was arm-waving almost before we’d reached where the ball had gone out of play, to Cesar’s obvious annoyance. As he then looked for someone to receive the ball, the watch-waving became even more exaggerated.

      What did the ref want us to do, throw the ball to one of their guys?

      Hmm, on reflection, the answer’s probably a big yes to that.

      Justice was done, though, when we scored in the 3 added mins, which he duly doubled, I guess to give them a chance to even things up before the break.

      Just because it would suit poo if we’d run around like headless chickens, does not mean that we had to do it. For me, it wasn’t time-wasting, just keeping cool and playing at our rhythm, not theirs.

  13. WorkingClassPost

    Not sure what’s occurring here, but gonna put my lunchtime to some use anyway.

    Felt strangely tired yesterday, as if all the ups and downs of what has been a very mixed season, had finally got to me. I can’t help but acknowledge that if that’s how it has affected supporters, then how must it have affected the players who experienced the repeated euphoria of proving themselves the best that England has to offer, followed by dejection and disappointment as we then dropped points in the dopiest of games.

    Thus we went into this match with no away goal, and the PL well and truly out of our own hands.

    Things started OK, it was tight, but we looked secure and up for the challenge, and the goal came as no surprise, but rather than kicking on we fell further back, no doubt waiting for the tactical update at HT, but instead of going in with half the job done, we found ourselves being briefed in the Last Chance Saloon.

    After the interval they looked the stronger side, determined to succeed, while we were still there, but in need of another goal to lift us. It never came.

    No point dwelling on the second half. We have enough young players to learn from the experience, and I hope that some of the older ones are still around for the next opportunity.

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