Premier League: Chelsea 2 Sunderland 1
By Football News
Paolo Di Canio's debut as Sunderland manager ended in defeat, as Chelsea fought back from a deficit to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Despite a promising opening 45 minutes, Di Canio was unable to inspire Sunderland to a positive result in his bow with the north-east club - as they remain deep in a relegation dogfight.
In a disappointing affair, all three goals carried an element of fortune to them, with Cesar Azpilicueta's own goal followed by two deflected strikes in Chelsea's favour - courtesy of Sunderland's Matthew Kilgallon and Blues defender Branislav Ivanovic to give them all three points.
Chelsea made five changes to the team that dispatched Rubin Kazan in the Europa League in midweek while Di Canio's maiden team selection saw Kilgallon, Sebastian Larsson and Connor Wickham all come in.
Within three minutes, Sunderland almost had a dream start as Stephane Sessegnon found himself in behind Ivanovic but with Wickham free for a tap-in, the Benin international went for goal himself and could only find the side-netting.
The hosts were certainly not at their sharpest in the opening period, perhaps understandably so given the clash represented their fourth match in only nine days.
However, on 17 minutes the game burst into life with chances at both ends of the pitch. First David Luiz and then Demba Ba were denied by two wonderfully brave blocks by Kilgallon. Then, from the resulting counter-attack, the impressive Sessegnon drove at the heart of Chelsea's defence before finding the onrushing Adam Johnson with a perfectly rolled pass.
However, the England international just delayed his shot a touch and that allowed Luiz to snuffle the ball away when the visitors looked more likely to score.
Chelsea may have had the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata on the pitch but their attacks were lacking in both inspiration and creativity and it proved no real surprise when Sunderland took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
After Wickham had done well to initially win a corner, Johnson's perfectly delivery was flashed across goal by the head of John O'Shea and Blues full-back Azpilicueta just could not react in time as he prodded beyond Petr Cech into his own net.
Chelsea were forced into a half-time change and Fernando Torres, the replacement for Demba Ba, made an immediate impact as the hosts drew level.
After jinking past Phil Bardsley, the Spaniard picked out Oscar - who saw his effort blocked by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, only to hit the unfortunate Kilgallon and trickle agonisingly into the corner of the net.
Within 10 minutes, luck deserted the visitors again as Chelsea found themselves in front from another scrappy effort.
After Sunderland cleared a corner, Luiz was afforded far too much room to take aim from just outside the box. His effort may have just been heading wide but a lucky intervention via Ivanovic's heel ensured the ball found its way past Mignolet.
From then on, for all of Di Canio's bluster on the touchline, the visitors just appeared to lose confidence and in a poor end to the game, Chelsea could have scored a third when some enterprising passing from Mata and Oscar saw the latter dig out a cross that Torres could only head over the bar.