Jose Mourinho’s men triumphed in the type of game that makes the Premier League so admired around the world. The defending from both sides wasn’t always the best, from dead balls in Chelsea’s case, but on a night when Eden Hazard was at times unplayable, three points for the visitors against the bottom club always looked likely.
As at the weekend, we again came from behind, this time recovering from a goal conceded after 14 minutes rather than 14 seconds. Lampard scored from a chance created by Hazard who then netted twice with splendid strikes, either side of a Sunderland equaliser.
The contest between the Chelsea winger and Phil Bardsley was one of the features of the game and the full-back put through his own net to make it 4-2 late on, but all the Sunderland goals came from set-pieces and it was Bardsley who made it tight once when he scored at the other end, but the Chelsea goal was not breached again. We claimed our third league win in a row.
Frank Lampard returned to the starting line-up in place of Michael Essien and with Oscar out injured, Juan Mata took up the central role behind Fernando Torres with Willian coming in on the right.
Sunderland also made two changes with Jozy Altidore preferred to Stephen Fletcher and Jack Colback replacing Sebastien Larsson in midfield.
Sunderland’s best pressure of the first half came in the opening minutes, with former Chelsea striker Fabio Borini having a shot blocked and then flashing the type of ball across goal that had the home fans roaring in anticipation for the first time.
Mata did similar as the Blues threatened but Torres couldn’t reach it, however it heralded the visitors taking control of the game.
Lampard shot wide after Cesar Azpilicueta had won the ball forcibly midway inside the Sunderland half, and our mobile midfielders were working promising patterns in wide areas either side of the Black Cats’ penalty area.
That domination only served to make it more surprising when Sunderland took the lead. Referee Phil Dowd whistled for a free-kick 30 yards out when Azpilicueta challenged Jozy Altidore, and although Andrea Dossena’s initial shot was easily blocked, it was poked back into the area to where Altidore did well to turn and fire a shot past Terry and then Cech.
However a calm and determined response by Chelsea prevented Sunderland turning that lead into a head of steam. The equaliser came just two minutes later and it owed much to in-form Hazard.
Taking a Torres lay-off, he moved wide before looping over the perfect cross to where Lampard, as he has done so many times before, escaped the marking and was able to head in from close range.
Back on level terms, Chelsea had to do some defending. Cahill slid to intercept a potentially troublesome cross and with half an hour gone, Ramires’s clearance after Azpilicueta had got his head to a cross was latched onto by Dossena who flashed a diagonal shot towards Cech’s goal. It was going wide but was close enough to extend the Chelsea keeper.
However the balance of play was still with the Blues, and Torres had a half-chance a couple of minutes later when a ball dropped at a corner, but it bounced high and was hard to keep down.
Hazard turned from creator to scorer with a moment of individual inspiration with 10 minutes to go to the interval. There was no immediate danger to the Sunderland goal when he advanced at the defence from a position out wide on the left, but with a simple dart inside, the space was there for a shot, and he needed no second invitation to drill the ball from the edge of the area into the far bottom corner.
With two minutes stoppage time beginning, Hazard almost caught Vito Mannone out with a shot towards the near post, and the Belgian emphasised the problems he was causing Gus Poyet’s side when slipping past Phil Bardsley out wide on the stroke of the half-time whistle before being pulled back. It meant a booking for the full-back.
Ramires joined Bardsley in the book soon after the restart for a foul on Altidore and the half continued to go badly for Chelsea when Sunderland were allowed to equalise four minutes in. The players will not be happy about the way a corner was allowed to bobble across our area, and after boots belonging to both sides had swung at it, John O’Shea’s made the necessary contact to tie the score up at 2-2.
It was Hazard who yet again looked poised to give his side back the lead, but this time Mannone was able to punch the shot out. It flew to Torres in a good position but the Spaniard skied his volley.
There was simply no stopping Hazard’s shot on 61 minutes which did restore the advantage. It was from closer range than the one shortly before but had involved no less skill in getting there. From 12 yards out the ball whistled past the former Arsenal keeper. Hazard was booked for taking his shirt off in ecstatic celebration.
Ba came on for Torres shortly after, a straight swap up front but Willian was the next to threaten the target, blasting wide on the run. Then Hazard fed Ba who turned away from Brown neatly but shot wide as he slipped, possibly after some contact from the defender. It was pulsating football.
Ramires had a couple of shots, one much closer than the other, before Cech did well to punch away a cross from substitute Adam Johnson.
The game was now in its final 15 minutes and they provided plenty of incident to end the evening.
Bardsley’s torrid night took a turn for a worse and then one for the better. Ramires found Demba Ba in plenty of space on the right and went for the return, but the cross was over hit and the danger appeared to have gone, before the Black Cats’ full-back inexplicably turned it into his own net.
For the first time in the game a side had a two-goal cushion, but it didn’t last long. Chelsea again didn’t do well at a corner and from five yards out, Bardsley shot past Cech and into the net at the other end.
Chelsea were asked to negotiate six minutes of stoppage time before the three points were ours and we were called upon to defend, which we did well and in numbers, although might have been punished had Ki not slipped when shooting.
It is our ninth straight league win away to Sunderland.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian (De Bruyne 89), Mata (Mikel 79), Hazard; Torres (Ba 64).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cole, Essien, , Schurrle.
Scorers Lampard 16, Hazard 35, 61, Bardsley o.g 83.
Booked Ramires 47, Torres 50, Hazard 61.
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown (c), Dossena; Ki; Borini, Colback (Larsson 57), Gardner (Fletcher 79), Giacherrini (Johnson 64); Altidore.
Unused subs Pickford, Celustka, Roberge, Cattermole.
Scorers Altidore 14, O’Shea 49, Bardsley 85.
Booked Dossena 38, Bardsley 44, Colback 51, Altidore 89.
Referee Phil Dowd