Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Home defeat for Black Cats.

Rafa Benitez picked up his first league win as Chelsea boss with victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

The visitors took the lead 11 minutes in through Fernando Torres, who doubled his tally from the penalty spot just before the break.

Juan Mata added a third just after half-time after Torres had hit the bar with a powerful shot.

However, Sunderland kept going and reduced the arrears through Adam Johnson, who netted his second goal of the season with 24 minutes to play.

A bright spot for Sunderland was the performance of Connor Wickham, who acquitted himself well after being handed his first senior start in almost a year.

The young striker showed some nice touches up against an experienced Chelsea back line after coming in to replace the injured Steven Fletcher.

Meanwhile John O'Shea returned to action after an injury lay-off, taking the captain's armband in the absence of Lee Cattermole.

Chelsea started brightly and Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was forced to make two superb saves inside the opening six minutes.

The big Belgian blocked well to deny Eden Hazard one-on-one and then came up big again at close quarters, denying Torres after John O'Shea's clearing header struck Carlos Cuellar and dropped into the striker's path.

However, there was nothing even Mignolet could do about Chelsea's opener as Torres fired his side ahead 11 minutes in.

Hazard teased Phil Bardsley down the left and whipped in a superb ball which was volleyed in by the Spaniard at the near post.

Having assumed the lead, Chelsea looked comfortable until Sunderland upped the ante with a promising spell of pressure just before the half-hour.

Wickham flicked on for Stephane Sessegnon, whose well-struck drive seemed to swerve in the air before it was turned behind by Petr Cech.

Then Johnson steered a superb cross into a dangerous front-post area only to see the delivery hurriedly shunted behind before a Sunderland player could touch the ball home.

The sides traded chances before the break, with substitute Oscar volleying wide before Craig Gardner cleared Cech's crossbar after breaking well through the middle.

But the pivotal moment came in first-half stoppage time as Chelsea – previously wobbling – took a chokehold on the game.

Seb Larsson's foul on Ramires left referee Mr Halsey pointing to the penalty spot and Torres made no mistake, sending Mignolet the wrong way for his second goal of the match.

A frustrated Sunderland attempted to regroup, but they had the stuffing knocked out of them by a third goal right at the start of the second period.

Torres' shot on the turn struck the crossbar and bounced down for Mata, who was in acres of space and able to control the ball before slotting home.

Victor Moses almost added a fourth when he worked an angle for a shot from the right of goal, but his angled drive skipped just wide of the far post.

To the hosts' credit, they continued to keep the work rate high and were rewarded with a goal of the highest quality from Johnson.

The winger received the ball from James McClean on the left and, with very little backlift, let fly with a crisp drive which flew past a startled Cech and into the far corner of the goal.

They almost reduced the deficit further when Johnson's curling free-kick looked set to find the top corner only to be tipped away by Cech at the last second.

Chelsea sub Frank Lampard then saw a powerful effort well beaten away by Mignolet before Sunderland redoubled their efforts for one last push.

Wickham smashed a low effort wide from just outside the box, while Gardner rattled the crossbar in injury time with a rasping free-kick from 20 yards.

Defeat for Sunderland, then – but it wasn't due to a lack of effort, as recognized by the home fans as they warmly applauded their players off the field at the end.

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Team Sheet

Mignolet
22
Bardsley (Colback)
2
Rose
3
O'Shea
16
Cuéllar
24
Johnson
21
Yellow Gardner
8
Larsson (Saha)
7
Sessegnon
28
McClean
23
Wickham
10
Cech
1
Ivanovic Yellow
2
Cole
3
Cahill
24
Luiz Moreira Marinho
4
Mata Yellow
10
Hazard (Lampard)
17
Romeu (dos Santos Emboada Junior)
6
Santos do Nascimento Yellow
7
Moses (Bertrand)
13
Torres
9

Substitutes

Bramble
19
Vaughan
15
Kilgallon
12
Saha
25
Westwood
20
Campbell
9
Colback
14
Bertrand
34
Marin
21
Lampard
8
dos Santos Emboada Junior
11
Turnbull
22
Azpilicueta
28
Ferreira
19