Premier League – Chelsea coast to Sunderland win
Chelsea beat Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in a result that leaves both the title race and the battle against relegation wide open.
John Terry’s 10th-minute header was the difference between the two sides, as Sunderland were spared a heavy defeat by the Blues like the 6-1 loss handed to fellow strugglers Derby County last Wednesday.
The Londoners are now just two points behind second-placed Arsenal, while Sunderland could drop into the bottom three if both Birmingham and Bolton win their next matches.
It took Chelsea almost half an hour to break the deadlock against Derby, so there must have been a real sense of foreboding among Sunderland fans when Terry ran unmarked to meet Frank Lampard‘s corner after just 10 minutes.
Sunderland were unable to carve out any clear-cut opportunities, even when the visitors were content to sit back and give them possession. Their best chance of the first half was Andy Reid‘s free-kick, which was curled over the wall wonderfully and looked bound for the top corner, only for goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, still deputising for the injured Petr Cech, to tip the effort over the bar.
Chelsea had two good chances to double their lead early in the second half, with Kalou blazing a shot wide of the target from close range before Danny Collins knocked to ball out of Drogba’s path just as the striker had swung his leg to shoot.
Not long after Sunderland had some promising glimpses at goal, with Cudicini saving a Grant Leadbitter shot from outside the area, and Collins heading wide form the resulting corner.
Black Cats boss Roy Keane brought on Swedish striker Rade Prica as he tried to chase the match, but the introduction of Michael Essien not long afterwards was enough to quash most of Sunderland’s late rallying.
The match saw a brief and final flurry of action in injury time, as first Kenwyne Jones and then captain Dean Whitehead went agonisingly close to equalising either side of a well-struck Drogba free-kick that dipped viciously over the wall.
Chelesea were playing well within themselves, and it always seemed as though a second goal could have been inflicted on Sunderland at any time. Keane’s side were spirited but uninspired with all of the time they were afforded with the ball at their feet. While there may well be enough sides of lower quality to see them avoid the drop this season, this match showed how much remains to be done to stay up for next term.