MATIC: OUT OF LUCK

A disappointed Nemanja Matic believes we were unfortunate to lose yesterday’s game at home to Sunderland.

The defeat was our first at Stamford Bridge in the league this season and is a major setback to our hopes of winning the Barclays Premier League with just three games to go now. The Serbian midfielder played the full 90 minutes and he gave his verdict afterwards on a match packed with drama.

‘We did give our best but we were unlucky and we lost because of that,’ said Matic

‘What was wrong? I don’t know. We players and all the staff gave our best to win the game. We had some good chances to score for 2-1 but we didn’t and then they got the penalty.

‘I didn’t see that situation very well. I have to see it on television one more time but this is football. It’s not my job to comment if it was a penalty for them, or if it was a penalty for us in a few moments. We are players and we have to take care of only what we do in training or in games.’

Matic also stressed the players had not got ahead of themselves prior to yesterday’s game, knowing that a Champions League semi-final tie Atletico Madrid and a league clash away to Liverpool beckoned the following week. Though the 25-year-old is ineligible for the trip to Spain, he believes those who do feature will be ready to try to get a positive result.

‘We are always focused. For us the next game is the most important. For us Sunderland was the most important game, we spoke about that before it.

‘This is football and sometimes you have to lose, unluckily it’s happened. Now we adjust the team’s focus for the next game which is Atletico Madrid.

‘I’m not going to play but of course it’s going to be a difficult game because Atletico are a good team but we are Chelsea and the players will be prepared for that. We have to do our best to get a good result and to go to the final.’

MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 1 SUNDERLAND 2

Summary
Fabio Borini’s 81st-minute penalty consigned us to our maiden league defeat at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho. It was the Portuguese’s 78th game in charge of Chelsea at our home ground.

Not only does the loss signal the end of that astonishing run, it also gives Liverpool a huge advantage in the race for the title.

We started brightly and took the lead through Samuel Eto’o’s close-range volley but our visitors hit back soon after through Connor Wickham after Mark Schwarzer, standing in for the ill Petr Cech, couldn’t hold Marcos Alonso’s volley.

Branislav Ivanovic hit the bar before the interval and Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres went close after it but it was Sunderland who went home with the points after Cesar Azpilicueta felled substitute Jozy Altidore and Borini, on loan from Liverpool, converted with ease.

Unlike so often before when we have faced an uphill task at this stadium there was no late reprieve and it was left to Mourinho to congratulate his counterpart Gus Poyet at the final whistle.

Team News
Petr Cech was suffering from a minor illness so Mark Schwarzer deputised, making his first Premier League appearance for the Blues. Ahead of the Australian was the same back four that had started our prior 12 games.

Ramires partnered Nemanja Matic in central midfield while there was a third consecutive league start for Mohamed Salah. Alongside him were the Brazilian duo of Willian and Oscar – beginning his first league game in four – with Eto’o chosen to lead the line.

A strong Chelsea bench included David Luiz, Frank Lampard and recent goalscoring hero Demba Ba.

Poyet, returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time as a manager, kept faith with the same 11 that had so impressively earned a point at Manchester City in midweek.

First half
The Blues began on the front foot as you would expect from a team hoping to reach the Premier League summit with Salah – positioned on the right of the attacking trio – particularly lively.

Despite plenty of possession in and around the Sunderland box it was our visitors who threatened first. Wickham controlled a long ball forward and cleverly flicked it into Borini’s path, but from just outside the box our former striker lashed his shot well wide.

That was on 10 minutes and barely 60 seconds later we had the lead.

Eto’o danced his way into the box past a couple of flimsy challenges before being well-tackled by the sliding Vergini. The Cameroonian was not to be denied for long, though. Willian swung over the corner and the poacher got free of his man to thump a close-range volley home for his 12th Chelsea goal.  

Chelsea

Any hope that advantage would set us on our way to a comfortable late afternoon at the Bridge ended soon after. Sunderland won a corner of their own which was played to the unmarked Alonso, loitering on the edge of the box. His volley was well-hit and not held by Schwarzer – perhaps unsighted by a crowd of bodies in front of him – with Wickham in the right place to lift the ball over our keeper.

The first goal we had conceded at our home ground in almost 10 hours, a run dating back to 19 January, unsurprisingly appeared to unsettle our side. Gary Cahill was required to produce a vital interception almost immediately as Sunderland sought a quick second.

A pair of Oscar long shots, including from one free-kick, called Mannone into action while John Terry had the ball in the net only to see his celebrations cut short by the assistant’s flag, raised for a foul by Matic on Colback.

Again a Willian corner delivered from in front of the travelling Mackems caused havoc. Ivanovic met it with a towering header that Mannone spooned up onto the underside of his bar. The spinning ball fell back to earth favourably for the keeper who pouched it on the line.

Chelsea pressure was mounting now. Matic tried his luck from range and the shot was too hot for Mannone to handle. Salah got to the loose ball first and tried to square it to Eto’o but the Italian stuck a paw out to intercept. Azpilicueta then returned with interest and a contest in the box ended with a penalty appeal for handball against Alonso – not given.

Salah showed exceptional speed to retrieve a long ball on 40 minutes, and while Willian got to his centre first Mannone was again on hand to keep it out. The ball looped up and it looked for all the world like Ramires would nod into the empty net but under considerable pressure from Wes Brown he headed wide.

Chelsea

The half-time whistle was almost sounded at the ended of a frantic and occasionally fractious opening 45 when Azpilicueta was robbed by Adam Johnson close to his box. By the time the winger worked it onto his preferred left foot our Spaniard had dashed back to intercept and the danger was over.

We were not having it all our own way.

Second half
We restarted kicking towards the Matthew Harding Stand for the 18th straight home game and within a couple of minutes almost retook the lead.

Ivanovic launched a counter-attack after dealing with a Sunderland corner and Willian scurried away with the ball, covering plenty of ground. He had Salah to his right but chose to go left to Eto’o, whose first-time curler bent agonisingly wide of the far post.

Eto’o had a decent claim for a penalty as he attacked a corner but aside from that time spent in the final third was largely futile for the next quarter-of-an-hour.

In search of some more decisive play in that part of the pitch Jose Mourinho sent on Demba Ba, the goalscoring hero in our two most recent matches, with 59 gone. Within five minutes the change almost had the desired impact.

Ba did well to play in Willian and he set it back to the Senegalese but, on the stretch from eight yards out, the striker skewed his shot wide.

Almost immediately Andre Schurrle was introduced in place of Salah. The German’s first involvement saw him cut in from the left and strike for goal; a deflection took the pace off it and Ba nipped in but was thwarted by Mannone.

Torres was the next attacking option thrown on and from two corners he threatened. First a bicycle-kick flashed over before he headed straight at Mannone from a tight angle.

Chelsea

Unthinkably, Sunderland then snatched the lead.

Azpilicueta carried the ball out of defence but slipped allowing substitute Jozy Altidore a run on goal. Harrying back to try and reverse a very dangerous situation our Spaniard went to ground, well in advance of the American’s path. He crumpled to the turf and the assistant’s flag went straight up. Penalty.

After some delay Borini stepped up and stroked his spot-kick down the middle. An agitated Rui Faria’s complaints on the touchline went too far and he was sent to the stands.

Chelsea

Schurrle drew a flying stop out of Mannone immediately and as our desperation mounted Torres had a penalty appeal – our umpteenth of the match – waved away.

Five minutes of injury-time were signalled and the closest we came in that period was from a John Terry header, well-met but straight at Mannone.

Our unbeaten home league run under Jose Mourinho was confirmed by Mike Dean, the referee leaving the pitch to a chorus of boos from a startled Stamford Bridge faithful who had witnessed history today.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar (Ba 59), Salah (Schurrle 65); Eto’o (Torres 73).
Unused subs Hilario, David Luiz, Mikel, Lampard, Torres.
Scorer Eto’o 11
Booked Torres 90+1

Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Vergini, Brown, O’Shea (c), Alonso; Cattermole; Johnson (Giaccherini 65), Larsson (Celustka 90+2), Colback, Borini; Wickham (Altidore 65).
Unused subs Ustari, Mavrias, Ba, Scocco.
Scorer Wickham 17, Borini (pen) 81
Booked Cattermole 55, Brown 72

Referee Mike Dean
Crowd 41,210

UNDER-21 REPORT: CHELSEA 4 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2

Summary
The young Blues won at Cobham to secure their place in the end-of-season play-offs that will determine the league’s champions. West Brom levelled twice after first half goals from Izzy Brown and Lewis Baker, before substitute Kasey Palmer put the hosts back in front midway through the first half and Baker fired a wonderful strike past Rose late on.

Team news
Drummy made three changes from the side that beat Aston Villa 4-2 at Villa Park last week, with Tika Musonda, Izzy Brown and Tomas Kalas involved from the start. Tika Musonda started on the right of a back four that also included Kalas, Isak Ssewankambo and Adam Nditi, while Brown led the line up front supported from out wide by Charly Musonda and Reece Mitchell.

Lewis Baker captained the team from midfield alongside John Swift and Islam Feruz started in the number 10 role just behind Brown. Jamal Blackman continued in goal.

First half
The visitors had the game’s first opportunity after seven minutes as Blackman denied Aaron Birch from close range and then Kemar Roofe’s effort on the follow-up was blocked strongly. Both sides were feeling their way into the match with alternating spells of possession, though the deadlock was broken after 11 minutes.

Swift supplied for Brown and the former West Brom striker found some space before striking a left-footed effort that deflected and looped up over Jack Rose in the young Baggies goal and nestled in the back of the net to take his goalscoring tally for the campaign into double figures.

The goal injected confidence throughout the home side and a super move involving Baker and Swift almost fashioned another glaring sight at goal for Brown, though Baker’s low centre from the left was cut out well by a recovering defender. Samir Nabi unleashed a fierce effort from the edge of the box that fizzed narrowly past the near post.

However, West Brom were soon level after half an hour as Roofe, appearing conspicuously offside, was found in behind the defence and finished with a delicate chip over the onrushing Blackman.

The scores were level for just two minutes as the young Blues fired themselves back in front through their captain. Brown turned provider from the right and centred for the supporting Baker, whose powerful shot was too strong to handle for Rose and earned the England youth international his 15th goal of the season.

Feruz dragged a shot wide after a great move spearheaded by Charly Musonda from deep, after the young Belgian had twisted his way out of a tight situation on the halfway line and escaped from a few defender, before the visitors grabbed their second leveller of the half. A deep free kick was dealt with poorly and Liam O’Neil found some space to finish past Blackman from close range.

Second half
The second period resumed with a couple of changes for the hosts as Drummy introduced Nathan Ake and Fankaty Dabo in place of Kalas and Tika Musonda. Swift hit a fierce drive from distance that Rose did well to keep hold of and the Blues were back in front after 20 minutes of the restart.

Baker’s corner from the right was well floated and Ake flew in from deep to win the header and, after the ball had ricocheted off a couple of bodies, Palmer managed to turn it in via the inside of the post and a desperate late glove from the goalkeeper.

The Blues continued to push forward as they searched for a killer fourth goal and to repeat the scoreline from last week at Villa Park, though the visitors also remained a threat. Ake was forced into some impressive defending to stop the Baggies’ advances, while down the other end Kyle Howkins was strong against Brown as the striker looked to escape from the last defender.

Baker hit a free kick from distance over Rose’s bar and then had the game’s final say as he beat Rose brilliantly from 25 yards with a great drive late on. That secured a second successive 4-2 win for the Under-21s and means they join Liverpool as guaranteed in the play-offs.

Next up for the Academy is a league trip to the Emirates for the Under-21s on Tuesday 22 April to take on Arsenal in their final league game of the season. The Blues can overtake Liverpool and top the league with a win.

Manager reaction
Drummy spoke afterwards about how he was far from satisfied with his players at the break but admitted he was delighted they fought back to win and put themselves in a position to top the league next week. Speaking to the official Chelsea website, he said: ‘We’re really pleased with the win.

‘In the first half we let them play and I was really unhappy with the boys at half-time, even though we got two goals, but Nathan Ake gets us back in it with his contribution for the third goal, showing sheer determination and Kasey Palmer came on and changed the game for us in terms of competitiveness and allowing us to go forward.

‘We’ve had to balance the players over the last few weeks with the Youth Cup as well, and we’re really proud of Adi [Viveash] and the boys. They were fantastic to watch at the Emirates and to get to three Youth Cup finals in a row is a super achievement.

‘We haven’t had a perfect day but we’ve won and we deserve this. We go to Emirates looking to win the game and top the league.’

The players, staff and officials held a minute’s silence before kick-off to pay their respects to West Ham youngster Dylan Tombides, who passed away yesterday after a battle with testicular cancer, and Drummy added: ‘There are a lot of tragedies in life and we wanted to pay our respects. He played against us earlier in the season at Aldershot and our thoughts go out to his family and to West Ham Football Club.’

Chelsea Jamal Blackman; Tika Musonda (Fankaty Dabo h/t), Isak Ssewankambo, Tomas Kalas (Nathan Ake h/t), Adam Nditi; John Swift, Lewis Baker (c), Islam Feruz (Kasey Palmer 53); Reece Mitchell, Charly Musonda, Izzy Brown.
Unused subs Bradley Collins
Scorers Brown 11, Baker 30, Palmer 65
Booking Mitchell

West Brom Jack Rose, Cameron Gayle (Bradley Garmston 74), Wesley Atkinson, Liam O’Neil (c), Kyle Howkins, Callam Jones, Kemar Roofe, Aaron Birch, Alex Jones, Ryan Pace (Jordan Francis 70), Samir Nabi (Joe Ward 59)
Unused subs: Bradley Garmston, Alex Palmer, Rees Wedderburn
Scorers Roofe 28, O’Neil 38
Booking Pace

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: WHAT TO EXPECT

Assistant first team coach Steve Holland sat down with Chelsea TV prior to this weekend’s match.

In a clip of the interview which can be viewed above (subject to registration), he speaks about how to approach the schedule at this immensely important stage of the season.

In the full interview, which is available now via the channel’s online access, Holland discusses what is anticipated from a Sunderland side Chelsea have already played twice this season, and come into today’s game following their draw at Manchester City midweek.

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: CECH AND CAHILL ON TURNING POINT

Two of the players responsible for ensuring the Blues possess the best defensive record in the Barclays Premier League have been talking exclusively to Chelsea TV ahead of today’s game against Sunderland.

Petr Cech and Gary Cahill both played during the 4-3 win in the corresponding fixture back in December, one of only two occasions this season we’ve conceded more than two goals in a game.

Stoke scored three against us the following weekend, but since then we’ve proved extremely difficult to break down, with Cahill outlining the requirements made by the manager on each player.

‘We’ve managed to keep a solid back four and big Pete consistently, touch wood we’ve not had many injuries and we’ve worked hard as a team,’ the defender told Chelsea TV.

‘The gaffer wants the wingers to track back and work hard, and the midfielders to do the same, so if everyone’s chipping in those are the rewards you get.’

Cech went on to explain how the matches at Sunderland and Stoke, defensively at least, became a turning point for the players.

‘We realised that if you don’t pay attention to small details and if you concede so many goals it’s not going to work,’ he said. ‘In the Sunderland game we conceded all three goals from set plays which were badly executed. You can’t always get away with a 4-3 victory.

‘If there’s a defensive corner or a counter-attack, everybody has to try to be in a good position quickly to make sure we are able to recover. We need to make sure we are there and not to give anybody an unnecessary advantage.’

Gustavo Poyet’s side go into today’s game still a long way from safety, but they will be buoyed by their midweek draw at Manchester City, a game they were unfortunate not to win.

‘Any team in the league, if you don’t play well, will cause you problems,’ added Cech. ‘If you go from top to bottom, everybody has international players in their squad. Not everybody comes here to play for teams in the top four, they all want to be part of the Premier League.

‘You can see every team has improved their squads immensely and that’s why it’s hard to win every game. If you play in all the cups it becomes difficult, but let’s see what’s going to happen. If we have a good game and continue what we’ve been doing, I believe this is the way to win.’

Cahill was understandably pleased Manuel Pellegrini’s side dropped points against Sunderland, especially after losing at Liverpool, and he believes we need to ensure we don’t suffer a similar fate.

‘It wasn’t on telly but I kept flicking over to check the result,’ he said. ‘Obviously you always think there are going to be twists and turns so I waited until the end of the match and saw they drew.

‘It’s fantastic for us but I’m sure there will still be a lot of twists and turns in the last four games so we’ll see what happens.’

You can watch the interview in full via the channel’s online access.