Just as well we have Blackburn on Saturday, as good a chance as we could have to bounce back. A preview Rovers fan’s preview will appear by tomorrow. “Complete and utter massacre. Can’t ever remember us being so completely overrun at home by another side. Frankly depressing …” was one Sunderland supporter’s harsh verdict on the 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea. Pete Sixsmith takes a more philosophical view of the gulf in class between the two teams …
Well, it could have been worse. But for some dogged defending and our visitors taking their foot off the pedal with 10 minutes left, we could have been looking at a repeat of Saturday night’s fiasco at Goodison. As it was, we were privileged to watch a master class in how to swat awkward opponents when they are annoying you.
Again, we got off to a flier and Bent took his goal really well. He picked up the ball that Kenwyne had forced out of the defender, moved quickly onto goal and slotted it past Cech in a manner completely unbeknown to the likes of Chopra and Murphy. This was after Chelsea had started well but had been pushed on to the back foot by some ferocious tackling from Cattermole and Cana.
In fact, the first half was pretty even. We scored, they had one cleared off the line by Cattermole and at half time I felt that if we can frustrate them for 15 minutes, we have a chance, a real chance to go on and win.
You would think that someone as old and decrepit as me would know better. I gather that Ancelotti’s English is improving slowly, but whatever language he used in the bowels of the Stadium Of Light, it stirred his team to deliver a half hour that , had it been done to any other team than Sunderland, would have been a pleasure to watch.
They moved the ball beautifully and wherever it went, there was a Chelsea player, someone of the quality of Ballack or Kalou or Lampard. They pushed us further and further back and had us defending in the box before they equalised and then they ran at us, forcing poor McCartney to give away a penalty that even the terminally useless Steve Bennett couldn’t miss.
Then, just to make sure that there was no comeback, Deco lined up a shot that went in off the post to settle the game. All in about a quarter of an hour and sending out the message that we are the business.
It was the movement that did for us. Long before he was taken off, Cattermole was chasing shadows and Cana resorted to kicking the ball away as if it were a game of attack and defence down the Rec.
If the ball got up front, Terry was able to see off a tiring Kenwyne and knock the ball wide so they could start another move. It was like watching a very expensive, hand tooled, leather seated, walnut panelled motor car, rolling smoothly over the road, making no sound and pushing the Fiats and the Mazdas out of the way.
Can we take any positives? Yes, I believe we can. Jones worried Terry in the first half before the effects of his trip to Trinidad and Tobago and his Herculanean efforts at Horwich caught up with him. Bent took his goal well and worked tirelessly to try and stem the blue tide coming down the left side – although it did take him away from Kenwyne’s flicks.
The midfield was swamped by the 2-3-4-1 formation that Ancelotti used but it should cope better on Saturday when a) Malbranque returns and b) we play Blackburn. I don’t think that Andrews, Pedersen and Diouf are as effective as Lampard, Essian and Ballack.
Ferdinand and Collins did well, but Drogba is a superb player and even on his own up front, he was very, very difficult to play against. But they kept on and it must be difficult knowing that there is a potential replacement sitting in the stands watching.
Well done Chelsea. You are not a likeable club but this was as good a performance as I have seen at the Stadium. They had the look and the (entirely justified) swagger of champions. We must focus on Saturday and make sure that we do not slip up against a Blackburn side who are in the same section of the league as we are.