RUEFUL Steve Bruce lamented his Sunderland side’s defensive failings after a thoroughly creditable performance against Premier League champions Chelsea was fatally undermined by lapses at the back last night.
Bruce knew there was plenty to be proud of in the way his players applied themselves.
But he also knew that his team would have been in with a genuine chance of taking something from the night had they not been their own worst enemies.
Chelsea are box office again after hitting a rich vein of form and then signing Fernando Torres and David Luiz on transfer deadline day and that was reflected in the big media following they attracted from the London papers last night.
Bruce was the first to admit that the view from Stamford Bridge these days is an impressive once again.
“They are a fantastic team and they look like the Chelsea of old again,” was his verdict after Chelsea’s 4-2 Stadium of Light victory.
“I thought John Terry, Ashley Cole Nicolas Anelka were terrific. They looked like the team that won the double last season.
“I’m just disappointed we gave them a helping hand on the night, because we gifted them goals.
“For all we played well, we gave bad goals away.
“And what’s painful for me is that a large part of the reason why we’re sixth in the table is because we’ve been so strong defensively.”
Bruce was pleased with the way his side performed in the first half and pleased, too, with the tidy debut of the talented Stephane Sessegnon.
“I think you can see why we’ve brought Sess to the club,” he said. “He’s a livewire.
“It wasn’t great for him to have to make his debut against one of the best teams in Europe, but you could see what he was about.
“He played well and so did the whole team early on – I thought that, as a spectacle, the first half was great, breathtaking.
“It must have been great for the neutral – pace, power, energy – everything we’re proudest of about the Premier League.
“It was disappointing that, after a wonderful start, we gave away a silly penalty and made a silly mistake for the second goal.
“Having said that, we gave as good as we got for most of the game and you have to remember that Chelsea are Premier League champions and we have half a dozen first-team players missing.
“So all credit to the players who produced such a good performance, they can take a lot of credit for that.”
Ultimately, Bruce – suffering only his fifth home league defeat as Sunderland manager – had to acknowledge the quality of the champions.
Looking back over the game, he mused: “Anelka was phenomenal and if Drogba and Torres end up playing up front with Anelka behind – then wow!
“I think Anelka’s good enough to play anywhere and they have made two unbelievable new signings on top of all the quality they already have.
“I went to the pictures on transfer deadline day about 4pm to watch the King’s Speech and when I came out and saw the news about Chelsea I almost had a stutter as well!”