Chelsea are back, Chelsea are back!!
These were the chants that were on everybody’s mind after the transfer window shut down and Chelsea gave further credence to this belief with a mighty impressive 4-2 victory at the Stadium of Light.
Chelsea’s record signing, Fernando Torres, and Brazilian David Luiz were not available for the match, but Carlo Ancelotti was able to call upon the young, yet experienced, duo of John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou to replace Florent Malouda and Ramires in the starting line up from the side that faced Everton at the weekend.
Sunderland started with Asamoah Gyan in the lone striker role, partly due to having a much depleted squad in the attacking department after the departure of Darren Bent and the injury to Danny Welbeck, and gave debut to their new signing Stéphane Sessègnon.
The game had barely begun when Sunderland dealt the first blow, Phil Bardsley got the ball on the halfway line and was given the opportunity to run and he took full advantage of that as he passed Mikel on the edge of the box and hit his shot into the bottom right corner, with Cech’s vision being a little hampered he wasn’t able to do anything about it.
Going a goal down so quickly had some fans worried with the depressing defeat at Stamford Bridge still fresh in the mind, but that was then and this is now.
Carlo Ancelotti had reverted to the diamond formation for this one with Nicolas Anelka playing in the hugely debated ‘behind the strikers’ position as Chelsea started to slowly and steadily move forward trying to find a way back into the game.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to get back into the game as well. Ashley Cole moving forward from the left was clumsily brought down by Elmohamady and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot.
Frank Lampard stood up and dispatched it calmly into the back of the net giving Craig Gordon no chance. Chelsea were level within ten minutes of going behind.
The equaliser gave Chelsea players the confidence boost that they needed as they started to assert themselves on the game.
Soon, the Blues were ahead, after Kalou was at the end of a quick counter attack to score his second goal in as many games.
The ball was played from defence to Drogba whose neat flick to Anelka gave him the chance to release Kalou with a first time pass. Kalou’s cause was helped by the on-rushing Gordon, who was nowhere near the ball, and allowed the Ivorian to easily score. It was a perfect example of quick one-touch counter-attacking.
Just as it started to look like Chelsea can now control the game, Sunderland struck again with Richardson. Elmohamady was brought down on the edge of the box by Ivanovic and Richardson was able to equalise from the resulting free-kick as his low-shot went beneath the jumping wall giving Petr Cech no chance. Chelsea’s lead only lasted for a few minutes and both sides were back on level terms once again.
Sunderland were very flexible while going forward with Gyan going wide on occasions and was able to combine with the other midfielders who were the making forward runs from midfield.
Chelsea were able to test Gordon a few more times as the game approached half-time, with Essien going close and then Ivanovic hitting the bar with a fierce shot, but weren’t able to further add to the score line.
Sunderland were under the hammer when half-time approached as they were forced to sit in their own half as Chelsea pressed forward.
There was some good attacking display from the Blues in the first half, but the defending left much to be desired and the same could be said about the Sunderland side as well.
The second half began with Chelsea getting three chances in quick succession; first Lampard and Drogba were denied with last ditch tackles from Sunderland players and then from the resulting corner Kalou’s cheeky little dink was cleared off the line by a combination of two Sunderland players, with a possible handball from Malbranque, much to the frustration of the Blues.
Chelsea were knocking on the doors as Sunderland were put under heaps of pressure. All this pressure soon told when John Terry gave Chelsea the lead.
Initially, Terry’s shot was deflected wide, after good work from Anelka, resulting in a corner. His initial header from the Drogba corner was blocked but it fell straight to Lampard whose fierce shot from just outside the box was parried by Gordon back to Terry, and the Chelsea captain made no mistake this time as he slammed it in on the half-volley, a strike which would make any forward proud.
Chelsea were rampant for the rest of the game, with Lampard and Kalou going close, but were still only a goal ahead which is never a safe position in football.
However, this was also soon laid to rest when Anelka scored Chelsea’s fourth goal of the night with a cheeky little finish with outside of his foot to secure the three points and keep us in touch with rest of the teams at the top.
Chelsea’s switch to the diamond formation had a positive outcome which would delight Carlo Ancelotti, since it would mean that he can start Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres at the same time.
Nicolas Anelka particularly revelled in his role, often going even deeper and playing like a deep lying playmaker, allowing the other midfielders to make forward runs. Salomon Kalou gave one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt till date much to the delight of the Chelsea fans.
Plus, playing Frank Lampard on the left gave Ashley Cole much needed protection at the back which resulted in one of his better performances off late.
Carlo Ancelotti was very impressed with his team’s performance, particularly of Nicolas Anelka and looked forward to the involvement of Fernando Torres, he said; “Nicolas Anelka played very well. He used his ability in behind Didier Drogba. His performance was fantastic tonight.”
“I am very happy because we have a fantastic player to put up front. I think the club made a great effort to get these new players. Now we are more competitive and it’s fantastic. It was a good game.”
“It was a difficult start but after that we played very well and created a lot of chances. It was a very good performance for us.”
“We could have scored more to close the game out but Kalou hit both posts but we controlled it until the end.”
Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Bosingwa (Ferreira 90+1), Ivanovic, JT (c), Cole; Mikel (Ramires 75); Essien, Lampard; Anelka; Kalou (Malouda 81), Drogba.
Goals: Lampard 14 pen, Kalou 22, Terry 60, Anelka 90+1.