Chelsea took on Sunderland at the Bridge in the Saturday afternoon match this week. After a shocking end to 2011, Chelsea have managed to start 2012 with two wins and they were keen to make it three out of three against Sunderland.
The last three games at the Bridge between the two teams has provided lots of goals. Last season is one to forget, after the Chelsea fans witnessed their team get humiliated 3-0 – fortunately all three scorers (Onuoha, Gyan and Welbeck) weren’t playing today.
Most Chelsea fans would have predicted a win before the game although with their somewhat sporadic matches of late a big win was not on the cards.
The teams lined up as follows:
Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, JT (c), Cole; Lampard, Romeu, Meireles; Ramires, Torres, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Malouda, Lukaku, Essien, Hutchinson, Sturridge, Bertrand.
Mignolet, Bardsley, Kilgallon, O’Shea, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Subs: Elmohamady, Wickham, Meyley, Ji, Westwood, Turner, Gardner.
Sturridge and Malouda were passed fit enough to be on the bench so Ramires again took on the right-side-of-the-attack duties. The defence was unchanged for a third game. Michael Essien, out since the first week of pre-season, was back among the subs.
Sunderland were able bring back Bardsley in defence and Larsson in midfield. Both missed their last league game.
Chelsea were challenged early on the left side of the defence as early as the third minute. Sunderland’s Sessegnon found a way through and squared the ball but McClean had slightly over-run it. Thankfully, that wasn’t the shape of things to come as the Blues responded with a stable first-half defence against in-form opposition.
Lampard had a shot blocked at source before Sunderland attacked again when Luiz was booked for body-checking McClean out to the right of the Chelsea penalty area. Larsson’s free-kick was hit hard but Cech was able to punch away with two fists.
There was better play from Chelsea early on when Cole crossed and Torres jumping with everything he had was just able to get his head to it but glanced the ball wide. This was a sign of things to come from Torres who could have scored a hat-trick in the first half.
When the next cross came in two minutes later, the Spaniard didn’t score either, but he made it possible for Lampard to do so. Mata picked out Torres who had been left all alone by the Sunderland defence. The Spaniard’s over-head kick was sweet and accomplished but it cannoned down off the bar. There was Lamps however to slide it over the line.
At 20 minutes it looked like Ramires might race through and add a second, but the ball had too much pace on it to be caught.
Another Torres header was on target before Cattermole adjusted his body shape to head clear.
It wasn’t all Chelsea in the first half however, and Bendtner was allowed to escape 10 minutes before the break to drag a shot wide of the far post.
Torres was looking sharp and was receiving plenty of encouragement from the Stamford Bridge support. He turned in very little space outside the area and flashed a shot just inches wide.
Sunderland lost centre-back Kilgallon to an awkward fall just before half time.
Early on in the second half Torres was threatening the Sunderland goal again, after a well-judged Mata pass was creeping inside the post before Mignolet pushed it out. Mata then mistimed a volley straight from a Lampard corner.
Just before the hour came the (what now appears to be matchly) controversy with the referee, with three penalty claims, two by Chelsea in the same move.
Torres was making his way through the field just inside the area when O’Shea appeared to trip him. The ball rolled on and as Mata went past the keeper, he too was sent tumbling. The Chelsea bench were in no doubt we should have had at least one go our way.
Almost immediately Sunderland were appealing themselves when Cole and Bendtner came together under an aerial ball and the Dane was floored.
Fortune smiled on the Blues when they left McClean unmarked at the far post as Larsson attacked well and crossed, but he wastefully misguided his shot.
Then it was back to the penalty shouts and this time Torres was booked by referee Phil Dowd after he went down. Replays however suggested the Chelsea man had been caught by the knee of Bardsley as he ran past.
The long awaited return of Essien came in the 72nd minute, Lampard the one to make way.
The match ended with a nervous last 10 minutes for Chelsea fans with Cole doing an amazing job of heading away a dangerous cross with Bendtner ready to pounce. Cech rose high and claimed the corner that followed.
Overall, Chelsea’s game are back to their winning ways and things can only get better with Torres’ confidence returning, Essien back to the squad and of course the long awaited arrival of Gary Cahill who is rumoured to complete his move to Chelsea early next week. The rumours were heightened when he was seen watching from the stands for today’s game.
Chelsea’s next game is away at Norwich on Saturday where they will be hoping to keep up the winning ways.
The screenshots above are from the the Quick Stats area in the EPLIndex Opta Stats Centre. You can subscribe to this area for just £3.95 per month or £39.95 per year (saving almost two months subscription) by clicking here: Subscribe Now
NB: Subscribing also gives you the chance to write for EPLIndex.com!