Di Canio denied at the Bridge.
New Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio saw his side take the lead against European champions Chelsea but was defeated in his first game in charge thanks to two goals early in the second half.
Di Canio got off to the ideal start when John O’Shea’s flick was helped into his own net by Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta just before half time.
But his side were left rueing their luck less than two minutes into the second period when a loose ball following a Simon Mignolet save struck Matt Kilgallon and rolled in.
And Chelsea struck what proved to be the winning goal eight minutes later – David Luiz’s shot taking a big deflection off Branislav Ivanovic to beat a helpless Mignolet.
It was a cruel way to lose, but despite the result, new boss Di Canio can take great heart from his side’s display.
They showed great tenacity and counter-attacking verve, especially in the first half, against a Chelsea side who achieved their fifth successive home league win and their third victory inside a week in all competitions.
The Italian made three changes for his first game in charge, bringing in Connor Wickham to spearhead his attack.
Meanwhile Kilgallon started for the first time since mid-January, with Seb Larsson also returning to the starting eleven.
Di Canio was given a warm welcome from the visiting fans as he made his way to the dug-out, and the sharp-suited Italian saw his side create the first chance of the game when Stephane Sessegnon blasted into the side-netting three minutes in.
Sunderland, lining up in a disciplined 4-4-1-1, set out to make life difficult for the hosts with Oscar shooting over from distance before Wickham tried his luck at the other end, making a strong run across Luiz only to screw his shot wide.
The visitors were certainly playing their part in a busy opening stanza which saw excellent chances for both sides within a minute just after the midway point of the first period.
Luiz’s powerful free-kick deflected off the wall and straight into the path of Demba Ba, who was set to pull the trigger until Kilgallon thundered in with a sliding challenge to nudge the ball away and allow his colleagues a chance to clear.
And the resulting out ball set up Sessegnon, who teed up Adam Johnson on the break only for the winger to see his shot blocked by the head of Luiz, who had made tracks to get back into a covering position.
Chelsea huffed and puffed with Mignolet gathering a Ramires header before grabbing Juan Mata’s effort just before the closing Ba could seize the ball.
But it was Sunderland who took the lead just before half-time, profiting from a set piece after the dangerous Wickham had a shot deflected wide.
Johnson swung in the flag-kick, O’Shea flicked on at the front post and Azpilicueta – stationed almost on the goal-line – attempted to clear but succeeded only in slicing the ball high into his own net.
A stunned Stamford Bridge looked on as Sunderland saw the half out – but it was all change thanks to two pieces of good fortune on the hosts’ part just after restart.
Less than 90 seconds were on the clock when Mignolet produced a good save from Oscar, only for the loose ball to strike the unfortunate Kilgallon and roll slowly, agonisingly into the corner of the net.
And the hosts were ahead nine minutes into the second period.
Luiz wound up a big shot from the edge of the box and found the back of the net via a huge deflection off the foot of Ivanovic, who was facing away from goal and seemed to know little of his intervention.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Sunderland and Chelsea wrested control of the game, pushing on and looking to get the ball into the feet of the likes of Mata and Oscar.
Both men threatened, with the former drawing a good block from Mignolet down low at the keeper’s near post before the latter blasted into the side-netting following the resulting corner.
Sub Fernando Torres then headed just over, while at the other end Johnson came close with a curling shot just wide from the edge of the box on the break.
The half-chance ushered in a bright spell from Sunderland, with James McClean introduced off the bench in place of Larsson, followed by Jack Colback in relief of Craig Gardner, who misses the next two games after picking up his 10th booking of the season.
But there was to be no way back for the visitors, and Torres almost made it three late on when he cut inside but blazed his shot over the bar.
Defeat, then – but plenty of food for thought for the new head coach ahead of the big Tyne-Wear derby next week.
- Luiz Moreira Marinho
- Mata (Lampard)
- Hazard (Benayoun)
- dos Santos Emboada Junior
- Santos do Nascimento
- Ba (Torres)
- Rose Yellow
- Gardner (Colback) Yellow
- Larsson (McClean)