Sunderland were comfortably beaten at home 1 – 0 by Chelsea on Wednesday night despite a spirited showing by David Moyes’ side. Cesc Fabregas steered in the only goal of the game five minutes before the break from the edge of the box to seal the points for the visitors and leave Sunderland languishing at the foot of the table five points from safety.
After defeat at the Liberty Stadium against Swansea on Saturday Sunderland were back in action on Wednesday entertaining Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Wearside. The lacklustre display in Wales needing to be vastly improved on as Chelsea headed North top of the Premier League, looking to record their tenth league win in a row and the bookies favourite to take the crown.
Sunderland went into the game as big underdogs although this was the case in the same fixture last season when the lads came from behind to seal a memorable 3-2 victory which was the catalyst for Premier League survival. Preceding the game on Tuesday though was a depressing interview from Chief Executive Martin Bain which basically confirmed we are skint and that there will be very little money spent in January to help replicate last season’s great escape.
There was some good news with Jan Kirchhoff and Fabio Borini both over there injury woes and expected to feature in the game whilst Didier N’Dong served a one game suspension after picking up five yellow cards. Chelsea were without Oscar due to a virus whilst Eden Hazard didn’t travel with Conte’s squad to Sunderland after picking up a knock against West Brom on Sunday although they still named a formidable side that included former Sunderland loanee Marcos Alonso.
David Moyes made four changes to the side that lost in Wales with O’Shea, Kirchhoff, Januzaj and Borini all starting at the expense of N’Dong, Larsson, Pienaar and Anichebe the latter two failing to recover from knocks picked up at the weekend. Young Bradley Lowery led the lads out as mascot with Jermaine Defoe carrying the youngster who is bravely battling cancer.
Sunderland lined up playing three at the back mirroring the system of the visitors with Denayer and O’Shea holding in midfield and the cagey opening of the game suited Moyes’ side as although the visitors had the lion share of possession they created nothing of note. There was a minute’s applause for Bradley Lowery in the fifth minute of the game as Billy Jones marauder forward but fired a cross out of play.
Chelsea continued to dominate the game but Sunderland did well in stopping shots on goal with O’Shea and Denayer doing well with blocks to deny Willian and Alonso. Chelsea did create a good opening when Alonso was afforded too much space on the left flank and crossed for Costa to strike first time but he sliced his volley horribly wide.
At the other end we managed a shot on goal when Januzaj went through but his left foot shot was wide of the mark with Defoe furious at not being played in on goal. Ten minutes before half time Jordon Pickford produced another world class save to divert Pedro’s shot wide of the mark and although the flag was raised for offside the young keeper wasn’t to know.
After defending robustly for the majority of the first half Sunderland were undone five minutes before the break when Billy Jones’ sloppy header gifted possession to Kante who rode a challenge before finding Willian. The Brazilian shaped to shoot before slipping the ball to Fabregas who fired into the bottom right hand corner to beat Pickford with a clinical finish.
Neither side made any changes at the break and Sunderland should have been on level terms instantly when Januzaj again found himself in on goal but he was denied by Courtois who advanced quickly to beat away his low right footed shot. The pattern of the game soon reverted to the visitors dominating and Willian almost found the net with a shot from the edge of the box which took a wicked deflection and dipped onto the crossbar.
Diego Costa thought he should had a penalty when he sprung the offside trap and raced through on goal but Lamine Kone managed to get back and muscle him off the ball and the ref waved away the frontman’s protests. Chelsea were relentless in their search of a second with Pickford having to make string of saves to deny shots from Moses, Pedro and Costa. Moyes made a couple of changes with half an hour to go with first Larsson replacing Kirchhoff before a forced change after Jones picked up a knock and was replaced by Donald Love but these had little impact on the game.
With ten minutes to go Moyes made his final change bringing on forgotten man Wahbi Khazri for Fabio Borini. Sunderland forced a corner late on after Djilibodji put in a great cross but despite a free header Denayer nodded straight at Courtious. Deep in injury time we won a free kick which almost resulted in an unlikely equaliser after Larsson swung the ball into the box. Chelsea cleared only as for as van Aanholt who produced a great piece of skill to flick the ball onto his stronger left foot and send a volley heading for the top corner only for Courtios to tip the ball wide at full stretch.
Final Score: Sunderland 0 Chelsea 1
ALS Man of the Match: John O’Shea
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