SUNDERLAND spurned two glorious late chances at Chelsea to salvage something from a game in which few would have argued had they shared the spoils.
Craig Gardner, just before full-time, and Nicklas Bendtner, in time added on at the end of the 90 minutes, had clear-cut chances to score but failed to make their moments count and Sunderland went down to only their second defeat under Martin O’Neill.
The Black Cats could count themselves unlucky, not just because they gave as good as they got all afternoon, but because the only goal of the game came in the most fortuitous of circumstances. Chelsea took the lead in the 13th minute when Fernando Torres, at the far post, pivoted on a right-wing cross and crashed his shot off Sunderland’s crossbar, down on to Frank Lampard and in.
The Chelsea midfielder would have struggled to get out of the way as the ball rocketed off the woodwork and straight at him in the six-yard box, but the home team got the rub of the green and the vital goal.
Sunderland had been marginally the better side before that and they had genuine chances to get something out of the game in the remainder of the match – Bendtner beat Cech but hit the woodwork in the first half and, in the second, Larsson got himself clear in on goal but opted to pass when it seemed a shot would almost certainly bring a goal.
Chelsea, too, had their chances but were relieved to squeeze home narrowly after Sunderland’s trademark late surge for one failed to produce dividends.
* Full report and pictures in tonight’s Football Echo