Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland
Chelsea wiped the smile off Paolo Di Canio as the hosts narrowly defeated his Sunderland in a lacklustre affair.
Two own goals by defenders a minute either side of the half-time interval spurred the game to life. Ivanovic made it third time lucky for defenders as he managed to secure a priceless deflection, and three points, for the Blues.
The win for Chelsea means they now are 3rd in the league on goal difference, whilst defeat for Sunderland mean they are truly in the relegation dogfight.
It was a match all built up on the managers. Rafa Benitez must have been relieved the spotlight was not on him, whilst Paolo Di Canio has not had an easy ride after Martin O’Neil’s tenure with Sunderland ended last week, with political agendas prevailing against football.
But once the whistle blew to start the match, it was the football that did the talking.
Fresh from his European ineligibility, Ba looked eager and had Chelsea’s first real opportunity, but O’Shea was in the right place.
The first game of a new manager normally brings renewed energy and life into a failing side, and Adam Johnson sought to provide this, nearly opening the scoring, only for David Luiz to head clear.
Ramires’ header was the first shot on target of note, but Mignolet was hardly tested.
Craig Gardner is never one to shy away from a manly challenge, and his one on Demba Ba in the 26th minute earned him a caution, and though the Senegalese striker played on, he was pulled from the action at half-time.
Wickham has been hotly touted as one for the future, and though not leading the line with distinction, at least had a part to play for the Sunderland break-through.
His shot off David Luiz resulted in a corner, and in and amongst the mêlée stood Cesar Azpilicueta, who got his foot positioning hopelessly wrong and spectacularly volleyed into his own net.
They say the worst time to concede — and duly the best time to score — is right before half-time, but it is hardly morale-boosting to concede straight after.
That is what Sunderland did exactly. Torres’ arrival for the injured Ba was refreshing, with the Spaniard’s surging run finding Oscar. The Spaniard expressed his commitment to repay Chelsea’s faith in him and see out his contract until 2016 was met with indifference, but more of the same and the fans will forgive him for his shortcomings.
The Brazilian Oscar had a great one-on-one opportunity, but a heavy first touch looked to put pay to any chance, but Mignolet’s block deflected off Kilgallon and trickled in.
Ten minutes later and Chelsea went ahead for the first time in the match. A Chelsea corner was the result of positive forward play, but no-one appeared keen to attack the ball in the empty box. Perhaps complacent in thinking there was no danger, Sunderland sloppily headed away, only as far as David Luiz, whose volley from the edge of the box took a massive whack off Ivanovic and into the other corner of the goal.
Lampard was given two minutes to try to seek his 201st goal, but it was enough for Chelsea as a trip to Russia awaits midweek.