Chelsea were frustrated by bogey side Sunderland as their march on the Premier League crown suffered a set-back.
The Blues, living high from the five-star German performance mid-week, were clearly also left tired from their Schalke exploits as Mourinho naively selected exactly the same 11.
The Northerners, who did the double over Chelsea last season in the Premier League and in the Capital One Cup, were left to disappoint again, but at least the stuttering Blues’ lead is extended to seven points, albeit temporarily before second-placed Southampton and third-placed Manchester City face off tomorrow.
The early passages of play set the tone for much of the play: immense Chelsea possession, but with a sturdy Sunderland back-line, the likes of Oscar and Hazard found it hard to be direct and, instead, large parts of the game were spent passing sideways.
There was simply no budging Sunderland’s defence. Willian hit the post from 20-odd yards but chances were hard to come by. And when the tables were turned, it was left to Ivanovic to stop Wickham from having a clear shot on goal.
A series of decisions going against Sunderland’s way — correctly — saw Sunderland’s assistant manager sent to the stands as the game started to sour. Indeed, later on in the second half, Costa was yellow carded, ruling him out of our mid-week clash against Tottenham.
In the interim, Ivanovic’s shot fizzed wide, but despite sending on Drogba and Remy, the Blues could not score for the first time this season.
Man of the Match
WILLIAN: His shot hit the post, and that was the closest Chelsea came. No-one had an inspired game: Matic was atypically sloppy, whilst you cannot rely on Fabregas, Hazard and Costa to assist or score every game. Willian certainly huffed and puffed and had efforts, albeit many wayward. 6/10
Mourinho could accept the result: “It was a difficult match. They defended a lot and they defended well [which] is not a crime; it is a strategy and it was successful for them. We were a bit tired towards the end and we left a bit of space.”
Gus Poyet was delighted his plan worked: “My players defended for their lives. We knew this was going to be a difficult game. We tried to be compact and I’m very pleased with our performance.”