Daniel Sturridge's clever back-heel was enough for Chelsea to beat Sunderland despite a late Ji Dong-won finish.
Skipper drills home opener as record-signing is benchedDaniel Sturridge's clever back-heel was enough for Chelsea to claim the maximum points against Sunderland despite a late Ji Dong-won finish. The Blues striker was a surprise selection by Andre Villas-Boas who preferred the youngster to £50million man Fernando Torres as the Spaniard had to be content with a spot on the bench. The frontman did not disappoint either as he ran on to a perfectly-weighted Raul Meireles through-ball and applied a cheeky back-heel past the advancing Simon Mignolet which evaded the desperate lunge of Wes Brown. Blues skipper John Terry had earlier put the visitors ahead at the Stadium of Light with a tidy effort drilled into the bottom corner that came off the toes of Phil Bardsley. Despite being dominant, Chelsea suffered a scare when substitute Ji Dong-won slotted past Petr Cech in injury-time, but it was too little too late for Steve Bruce's men who have scored just two goals this season. That statistic will not have been lost on the club's fans as news of Asamoah Gyan's loan move to United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain emerged shortly before kick-off, although they will have been buoyed by Nicklas Bendtner's performance on his debut in front of the home crowd. Sunderland might have got off to the perfect start with just 12 minutes gone when Bendtner managed to connect with a header from Seb Larsson's free-kick, however the Dane glanced the ball wide of the goal with Cech flat-footed. That only seemed to open the floodgates for Chelsea to dominate in possession and attacks as an impressive Juan Mata pulled the strings for the Blues with Raul Meireles proving industrious as he sat in front of his new back four team-mates. Lively Mata combined well with Ashley Cole down the left to exploit a lot of gaping holes left by Sunderland as they worked hard to defend what was quite clearly an onslaught.
ControversialThe opener came with 18 minutes gone in slightly controversial circumstances as Lee Cattermole was adjudged to have tripped Nicolas Anelka who appeared to go down very easily on the edge of the box. That paved the way for Mata to have a strike from the set-piece and his curled effort cannoned back off the post as Mignolet could only watch. With a lucky escape Sunderland should have cleared their lines, however it came back into their box with Kieran Richardson playing Terry onside at the far post. The defender chested the ball down and drilled it towards goal, with the ball coming back to him and he made no mistake from the follow-up. Anelka and Ramires could have added their names to the scoresheet but thanks to the defence of Brown and Mignolet, Sunderland were kept in the tie. Bardsley was fortunate to escape without punishment when he appeared to stamp on Mata as he jumped over the Spaniard and landed on him, however nothing was given. Despite the opener, Sunderland finished the half well with Stephane Sessegnon forcing Cech to get down and parry away his powerful shot. Larsson then mistimed a header when he found himself unmarked from a Richardson injury-time cross. Craig Gardner headed tamely at Cech from another Richardson cross as Sunderland resumed in determined fashion, but Chelsea hit back in a matter of minutes.
RelievedAnelka had already fired wide after spinning away from Titus Bramble and Cattermole was relieved when he saw his volleyed clearance from Cole's cross fly over his own crossbar when the visitors doubled their lead. It was Meireles who was the Blues' provider as his ball over the top allowed Sturridge to run away from Brown and as Mignolet came towards him, he audaciously back-heeled his shot into the bottom corner with the former Manchester United defender's efforts to keep it out coming to nothing. Sunderland might have reduced the deficit with 25 minutes to play when Branislav Ivanovic made a mess of clearing Jack Colback's left-wing cross and the ball fell to Bendtner who turned and unleashed an effort towards goal but Terry was on hand to block his shot. Anelka forced a 73rd-minute save from Mignolet as the visitors eased into cruise control, and although Ji side-footed home at the death to give the home side some reward for their efforts, the points were safe for the visitors. The win extended the Blues' uneaten start to the season and left Sunderland still looking for their first victory and having scored only two goals in five games.
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