ANDRE Villas-Boas is not the most popular person in SW6, where the youthful Portuguese is struggling to keep a lid on a simmering Stamford Bridge in a challenging season.
The Chelsea manager probably not the most popular with opposition supporters either, where his cringe-worthy theatrics in the technical area smack of playing to the gallery and bigging up his own involvement in the game.
But Sunderland fans could at least appreciate the fact that he showed their club genuine respect in the wake of a 1-0 win which represented Chelsea’s 14th win in 15 league encounters between the two clubs.
That statistic alone would suggest Sunderland are traditionally lambs to the slaughter in this fixture, but the reality on Saturday was anything but, and the Blues’ boss was the first to acknowledge it.
“It will never be easy against Sunderland,” said the former Porto boss. “We know that.
“We tried hard to get that second goal against them, to give us more confidence, but we couldn’t get it and that left the game on the edge.
“In the end, we showed great spirit of solidarity to hold on to the result. I have to say I am very happy to have put an end to Sunderland’s amazing run of form. It took an incredible effort from us.
“Sunderland were always on top in terms of challenges and looked very sharp in terms of looking to reduce spaces.
“The fact that Sunderland have won games so late on in recent weeks gave them the inspiration and motivation to keep going for it, which made for an exciting and open final 10 minutes.
“Sunderland were going all out for attack, but we had our chances, too, and I think that made for a very open and exciting game.”
The Chelsea manager was equally as honest when it came to his assessment of the ebb and flow of the game itself.
“First-half, we were more in control because of our possession and Sunderland were tight and compact, looking to hit us on the counter,” he said.
“Second-half, it changed around the other way because we’d scored and Sunderland were looking to get back on level terms – they were far more dangerous on the counter in the second half.
“But both teams created chances and it was a very entertaining match.”
At the end of it, Villas-Boas seemed happy simply that he had overcome a difficult challenge on a weekend when rivals had faltered.
“It was an important win for us, an important three points,” he said.
“It shortened the distance between ourselves and Spurs ahead of us – who drew their game – and it lengthened the gap between us and Liverpool below us, who drew their game, too.”