A goal three minutes from the end of extra time knocked the Blues out of the Capital One Cup at the quarter-final stage as Sunderland came from behind to win.
After an uneventful first half, what has been announced as an own goal shortly after the restart gave Chelsea the lead and began an improved performance. However chances were not taken and the home side, who had also carried more threat since the interval, levelled with just three minutes of normal time left to play; former Chelsea striker Fabio Borini the first to score against us in this competition this season.
Chances fell to both sides in extra-time and three minutes were once again left on the clock when Sunderland took one of theirs, substitute Ki Sung Yeung netting the decider to end our hopes of silverware in the early spring. Historically the Wearsiders have been difficult cup opposition for the Blues, and so it continued.
There were eight changes from the side that won against Crystal Palace but there was still plenty of experience on the pitch.
Mark Schwarzer was in goal and Cesar Azpilicueta returned to the right with Ashley back on the left of defence. Gary Cahill came in for John Terry so Frank Lampard captained with John Mikel Obi alongside him in midfield.
Willian, having impressed in the no.10 role at the weekend, started there again with Kevin De Bruyne, beginning his first game since the previous round against Arsenal, and Andre Schurrle the wide players. Samuel Eto’o led the attack.
Gustavo Poyet named a strong Sunderland side with just three changes from their weekend Premier League match at West Ham. Andrea Dossena came into defence with Phil Bardsley, so tormented by Eden Hazard in the league game here earlier this month, on the bench. In midfield, Craig Gardner replaced Ki Sung Yeung and Adam Johnson was preferred to Fabio Borini out wide.
Whereas our league match here was all thrills and spills and goals gifted at both ends of the pitch, the first half of this cup encounter was anything but. The unfamiliarity of the Chelsea attack in playing together had something to do with it, but the two backlines were more solid as well, although there were ragged moments from Sunderland as the game approached half-time.
Schurrle was the first to show in the game from an attacking sense, cutting in from the left and shooting straight at Vito Mannone in the Sunderland goal after Willian had switched the play. The Brazilian had a go himself soon after with the same result.
Lampard shot well off-target in the middle of some uneventful minutes before precise Chelsea short passing, with Mikel and Willian involved, opened Sunderland up. Schurrle neatly side-stepped his marker and smashed a centre across the Sunderland goalmouth. There was no contact there and when Eto’o picked the ball up on the other side, he couldn’t find a colleague with his pass back into the fray.
The Cameroonian fired a shot into the area soon after but there were legs aplenty to block it. Twenty minutes had passed with neither side yet to truly look likely to score.
Sunderland had enjoyed a couple of moments in or near our penalty area that had their fans roaring but the Blue defence was standing firm. They had one shout for a handball in the area against Azpilicueta but it was rightly rejected by referee Anthony Walker.
On 24 minutes, David Luiz was booked after Giaccherini played the ball past the Chelsea man and then ran into him. With David Luiz not having moved sideways in either direction, it begged the question where was he meant to go? The free-kick came to nothing.
Dossena followed into the book just two minutes later for a trip on Willian.
The same Chelsea player cleanly struck a diagonal shot after a Wes Brown mistake had given us possession in a dangerous area for the home side. Although it passed the wrong side of the far post, it was the best attempt so far. It was also the last one of the half.
Former Man United defender Brown was again caught napping, this time by Azpilicueta who passed on to Eto’o. The striker delayed shooting and looked to be fouled as he was dispossessed on the edge of the box, but the ref played on.
It took only 39 seconds of the second period to be played for it to record what the first one didn’t – a chance begging to be taken and a goal.
The ball was played quickly by De Bruyne to Azpilicueta in space out wide and this time when it was drilled into the six-yard box, both Lampard and the covering Lee Cattermole were there to make joint contact. The ref indicated he gave the goal using goal-line technology, only announced as active in the Capital One Cup yesterday. Replays showed it was over the line by a couple of feet, they also showed Cattermole had probably made the telling contact. TV coverage announced an own goal so Lampard was not credited with a goal that would be fitting given the part he has played in the story of this particular technology in football, although the discussion may continue.
The goal had the desired effect on Jose Mourinho’s men and we began to play well, although the next chance, not long after the goal, was presented by a bad back pass. Eto’o balanced himself but still missed the target by a few inches.
De Bruyne, who was now much involved in the game, had a stinging shot saved before Lampard smashed one that very nearly dipped enough, but not quite. It had the impressively large Chelsea support behind that goal gasping in anticipation, then disappointment.
Sunderland had their best spell of the game midway through the half. David Luiz blocked a Larsson strike after his own clearance had been charged down. Then Cattermole caught a 25-yarder sweetly but the jumping Schwarzer was up to the challenge.
Chelsea were then forced to make a change on 69 minutes when Azpilicueta appeared to hurt a knee under challenge from Altidore. He walked from the pitch to be replaced by Michael Essien.
Another African was introduced with one making way soon after as Demba Ba replaced Eto’o.
Inside the final 15 minutes, Schurrle did what he does well, and worked himself just enough space to flash a shot past his marker, and Mannone had to react quickly to palm it out. Then David Luiz at his best picked out Ba with a quickly taken free-kick from halfway, and the substitute went close with a volley. When Sunderland won a corner soon after, Schwarzer punched it away well.
There were only three minutes left on the clock when Sunderland drew level. The ball was worked forward from their own half to Altidore who could have scored, but his effort was unconvincing and Schwarzer blocked. The ball squirmed wide to former Chelsea man Fabio Borini, on as a sub. He was at a very tight angle and Chelsea had a man on the line and another on the post, but the Italian still scored.
Borini could easy have won the game before 90 minute were up, but for a brilliant sliding tackle inside the area from Cahill.
A smooth Chelsea move ended with Willian crossing and Brown conceding a corner with Ba challenging. From Lampard’s delivery, David Luiz drew a sprawling save from Mannone.
Ba then couldn’t make enough contact after good De Bruyne work and Willian forced another corner out of Brown. But it wasn’t all Chelsea. Stand-in right-back Essien made an important intervention when Sunderland threatened our goal and midway through the first period, first Cole with his head and Borini with his boot missed a ball dropping dangerously at our far post. The tie was finely poised going into the second period.
Three minutes after the restart, De Bruyne collected the ball centrally and snaked his run into a good position but shot wide.
Essien was then booked for a foul on Giaccherini and will serve a one-match ban in the next game for five yellows this season.
The free-kick was headed away and Essien blocked in the goalmouth as Altidore turned the returned ball on target.
The game was understandably becoming more and more open and Willian’s cross almost did damage at the other end, before Schwarzer saved very well from Ki’s header.
It wouldn’t have been a surprise whichever side grabbed a late winner. The home side did with three minutes left to play. A cross over from the right was turned wide by Borini to Ki. The substitute kept a cool head to dart inside Essien and Cahill and find the bottom corner.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):Schwarzer; Azpilicueta (Essien 69), Cahill, D Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Lampard (c); De Bruyne, Willian, Schurrle (Hazard 83); Eto’o (Ba 73).
Unused subs Blackman, Terry, Oscar, Torres.
Scorer Cattermole o.g. 46
Booked David Luiz 25, Essien 109.
Sunderland (4-3-3):Mannone; Celustka, O’Shea (c), Brown, Dossena; Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner (Ki 62); Johnson (Borini 74), Altidore, Giaccherini (Bardsley 120).
Unused subs Dixon, Cabral, Mavrias, Roberge.
Scorers Borini 87, Ki 117.
Booked Dossena 27.
Referee Anthony Walker