PreambleAfternoon. The bad news for Sunderland: Chelsea have not conceded a goal at Stamford Bridge in 871 minutes of football; and Chelsea walloped seven past them in the same fixture last season.
The good news for Sunderland: John Terry has a nerve problem in the back of his leg (not sure which) and has been ruled out of today's game; and Chelsea haven't been very good recently. Largely because their midfield of Ramires, Zhirkov and Mikel can be dominated, as evidenced at Anfield last Sunday and in patches against Fulham in midweek. Due to the poor quality of the Premier League these days, they can still go five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table if they win today, though.
Team newsChelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires,Mikel, Zhirkov, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka. Subs: Turnbull, Kalou, Van Aanholt, Bruma, Kakuta, McEachran, Sala.
Sunderland: Gordon, Onuoha, Turner, Bramble, Bardsley,Henderson, Zenden, Cattermole, Richardson, Welbeck, Gyan.Subs: Mignolet, Malbranque, Angeleri, Da Silva, Riveros, Elmohamady,Adams.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
So, there's three right-backs in Chelsea's defence, although strictly speaking Ivanovic is becoming a fine centre back after initially playing at full-back.
On the couple of occasions that I have seen Sunderland play this season I have been impressed with them going forwards. They have width and pace and in Bent (who is injured) and Gyan they have strength up front too. Not so much at the back, mind, where Bramble still tends to look a little lost when faced with high balls, often committing the school-boy error of letting the ball bounce before attempting a clearance.
A couple of questions ...
• Is it more preposterous that Sunderland's Jordan Henderson or that annoying ginger kid from Harry Potter is worth £20m?
• You're a Chelsea fan and your name is Ray Wilkins. Do you want Chelsea to win today?
Prediction time: Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland.
4.04pm: The teams will be scurrying out at Stamford Bridge shortly. I imagine Steve Bruce watched how Liverpool played against Chelsea last week and how a 4-4-2 formation caused them all kinds of bother in the first half. He's playing Welbeck alongside Gyan in Attack.
4.09pm: "Maybe you can help me out here, but Is there any other defender that's been so effective at having Didier Drogba in their pocket than Titus Bramble?" asks Qasá Alom. I can't help you out with any stats Qasa but I know that Bramble often plays well against the so-called bigger clubs, probably because the sense of occasion focuses his concentration. Right, the teams are out and we're almost ready for kick-off.
4.10pm: There will be a minute's silence in memory of those who have lost their lives at war.
4.10pm: The silence is impeccably observed by both sets of supporters. There are plenty of members of the armed forces in attendance at Stamford Bridge too.
Peep! Chris Foy, who hails from Merseyside, blows on his whistle very hard and we are off. Can Sunderland cause an upset?
1 min: Sunderland press the Chelsea midfield very high up. Giving them very little time on the ball and hurrying Ivanovic into a long ball after the ball is worked back to him.
3 min: Chelsea dominate possession. Drogba twice finds Anelka. The second occasion sees him dink a delicate ball into Anelka's feet inside the box which the Frenchman is unfortunate not to be able to work through to Zhirkov, who had burst through from midfield.
5 min: "I think most Sunderland fans would be pretty upset if we sold Henderson for only £20m," harrumphs Stephen Gibb. "On the basis of potential as much as current performance. Certainly wouldn't swap him for Milner." I haven't seen enough of him to know what he's worth but I often find it a strange business valuing players on potential. If that were the case surely Aaron Ramsey would have cost Arsenal more than the £5m they paid Cardiff for him.
6 min: Anelka gives his hamstrings a good test as he sprints after a long kick from Cech. He gets a toe to the ball and pokes a shot at goal but it hits the sidenetting. Impressive pace, mind.
7 min: Sunderland hold possession in Chelsea's half and try a few passes around the box which don't come off. Welbeck has a good chance of putting Gyan through on goal, but doesn't use his left foot and hits a horrible pass well ahead and miles left of his Sunderland strike-partner. I'd give him 30 press-ups if he did that in training. Nice sense of adventure from Steve Bruce's side though.
10 min: Ferreira plays a woeful pass into midfield which Jordan Henderson nicks away from Zhirkov. With a chance to play Gyan in behind Chelsea's defence his pass is underhit and the striker has to pull the ball out of his feet before shooting over the bar under pressure 20 yards from goal.
12 min: Drogba sniffs a chance in the Sunderland penalty box and tries to get in front of his defender to head at goal. But Bramble does well to block the effort and Sunderland clear the danger. "If Henderson were from France or Ghana, his price tag would be well under £20m," reckons Hugh Collins. "Prices for English players are always excessive - Sunderland should sell and reinvest during the transfer window." Interesting Hugh, but who do Sunderland buy to replace him? And don't they need English players for the quota these days?
14 min: A brilliant interception from Phil Bardsley halts Malouda in his tracks on the right wing. It's a tackle reminiscent of Bobby Moore, hooking his leg around the ball and trapping it beneath it, before getting to his feet and cooly playing the ball out of defence. Sunderland have made an assured start to this game.
16 min: Cech almost plays Mikel into all kinds of trouble with a short ball into his feet. The midfielder has to quickly play the ball back to his goalkeeper who then finds him with a second pass, which is much better. Mikel drives forwards and floats a wonderful pass through to Anelka, who is beaten smartly to the ball by Gordon. Chelsea fans want a penalty as Anelka falls over under the challenge but there's nothing to it.
18 min: Marvelous skill from Zhirkov, who jinks inside his first marker on the left before accelerating through a tiny gap between another two Sunderland defenders. He takes a touch into the box and looks set to score a wonderful goal but ruins all his good work by striking wide of goal.
21 min: Ivanovic is being wrestled in the box as a Chelsea corner is curled in from the right. He gets his head to the ball and watches his attempt miss by a yard to the left of the goal but had a reasonable shout for a penlaty there.
23 min: Chelsea are beginning to turn the screw. Malouda combines well with Drogba as he works his way across the outside of the box before laying a pass off to the Ivorian. Drogba strikes at goal but it is defelcted for a corner.
24 min: The corner is cleared to the edge of the box and Ramires puts the fear of God into Gordon as he heads powerfully from 20 yards towards the top-left corner, forcing the goalkeeper to tip the ball up and catch it at the second attempt.
24 min: Steve Bruce looks like a football casual in his quilted Barbour jacket today. I'd be intimidated by him if he was at a service station holding a can of Fosters and saying 'geezer' a lot ...
25 min: Welbeck skips away from Zhirkov and has a chance to play Richardson in behind Cole ... but again he overhits the pass disappointingly.
28 min: Drogba is felled on the edge of the box by Turner, who is booked and quite rightly. It was a very sharp turn and the striker looked likely to get a shot off. Drogba stands over it ...
29 min: Drogba absolutley creams his shot, giving it an almighty whack. It cannons off some poor sod in the Sunderland wall and goes a yard over the bar. Zhirkov wastes the corner. Why can't professional footballers take corners? Fine them etc and so on ...
31 min: Mike Cameron points out to me that Sunderland already have 11 English players in their squad so they could easily cash in on Henderson. One of those Englishmen, Titus Bramble, miskicks his clearance, scuffing it against Mikel. Luckily for Sunderland, the midfielder takes a heavy touch and runs the ball out for a goal-kick.
34 min: Chelsea are becoming a little frustrated. They're struggling to work the ball out of the congested midfield area. Welbeck is dropping deeper than a conventional second striker and clogging things up ...
35 min: Cech makes a fantastic save! Henderson and Bardsley combine well in midfield and release Onohua on the right wing. He curls a delicious ball into Welbeck, who escapes his marker and heads powerfully down into the right-hand corner where Cech's left fingertips just manage to tip the ball around the post.
37 min: Sunderland are having a fantastic spell. They spurn two more chances to score. First a corner is cleared to Welbeck, 12 yards from goal on the left. He drives a low shot at goal which Gyan only has to touch to divert into goal. Then Gyan curls a ball around the last defender for Welbeck, but on his left side he shoots straight at Cech.
39 min: Ivanovic should have been sent off for a professional foul! But he receives only a booking. Chris Foy bottles it. Zenden plays Welbeck in behind Ivanovic with a beautifully-weighted pass, but the defender grabs Welbeck's right shoulder and hauls him down. It was a foul and a goalscoring opportunity, despite being a good 40 yards from goal. Nobody would have caught Welbeck. Tony Pulis will be docking points from Foy as I type.
42 min: Chelsea are stuttering here. Apart from a solid spell of possession for 15 minutes they have been below-par. I still believe much of this is to do with their midfield, which isn't strong enough.
Goal! Chelsea 0-1 Sunderland (Onuoha 45 min) Onuoha becomes the first visiting player to score a goal at Stamford Bridge this season with a wonderful finish. Cech makes two fine stops, first from Gyan after Welback caught Chelsea's defenders off guard with a curled ball from the right around the back of them. The rebound from Richardson is saved brilliantly by Cech's feet. Then Onuoha picks the ball up on the edge of the box and slaloms between two Chelsea defenders with mesmeric feet and bursts into the box. Under pressure from Cech and finishes deftly into the bottom right-hand corner.
Half-time: Sunderland hold on for the remaining minute and a chorus of boos rings out around Stamford Bridge as the whistle goes for half-time. Sunderland weathered Chelsea's early pressure quite comfortably and the pace of their strikers has been a constant problem for Chelsea at the back. Steve Bruce deserves huge credit for playing a positive formation and trying to win the game - as well as wearing that moody Barbour jacket!
Some half-time emails:
"Chris Foy is a worse monkey than Howard Webb," harrumphs Rohit Kapur. "See Everton - Arsenal MBM 69 minute commentary to understand my meaning. I'd say something new and wittier, but really, this is nothing more than beating a dead horse now."
"Petr Cech must be in with an early shout for the PFA Player of the Year (I think they vote around Christmas time - who knows why)," says Gary Naylor. "He appeared to take a long time to recover his nerve after the Stephen Hunt assault, but he's back to his best. I didn't think he could do it." He's been outstanding today Gary. Chelsea would be 3-0 down if it wasn't for his reflexes. Any other early contenders readers? Here's a left-field one ... If he's fit again soon what about Peter Odemwingie?
The players are back out and we're almost ready to get underway again. I imagine Sunderland may have some defending to do this half.
46 min: As bad as Chelsea were in the first half last week, they were as good in the second half against Liverpool. Perhaps we'll see something similar today. Bramble sends Malouda sprawling on the deck and Chelsea win a free-kick 40 yards from goal.
47 min: The free-kick is overhit and Gordon collects comfortably. Welbeck has a pot-shot for Sunderland from 25 yards on the left corner of the box but it bobbles harmfully wide.
48 min: Drogba sends a thumping effort into Bramble's considerable midriff as Chelsea start to turn up the pressure. I'm surprised Bramble is still standing after that. It made a hollow walloping sound as it hit him. Corner ...
50 min: Chelsea play it short and Zhirkov clips the ball in from a more open angle. Gordon is forced to tip the ball away as it loops over him. Sunderland clear.
Goal! Chelsea 0-2 Sunderland (Gyan 51 min): Wonderful football from Sunderland. Zenden, Henderson and Gyan are all involved in some terrific triangular passes to work the ball in and around Chelsea's defence. Henderson continues his run and plays a first time pass into Gyan, 12 yards from goal on the left, who opens up his body and finishes expertly into the bottom-right corner.
54 min: The Premier League is weird this year. And are Wigan and Sunderland the weirdest of the Premier League's weird teams? There's no possible way you can predict what either team will do week on week ...
55 min: Malouda tries to find Drogba with a low cross from the left after beating Onuoha to the byline. But his cross is too close to Gordon, who gathers the ball into his chest.
56 min: "That hollow walloping sound when the ball hit Titus's midriff (48 mins) - are you sure it didn't hit his head?" asks Gary Naylor. Ah, that'll be right, Gary.
57 min: Kalou on for Malouda. Chelsea fans greet this substitution with some hefty booing.
58 min: Sunderland look comfortable. They hold on to possession in the final third and win a free-kick 35 yards from goal. This is played short from Richardson to Gyan, who takes a touch before watching a sneaky effort curl a yard wide. Sunderland have had 11 shots on goal to Chelsea's seven.
60 min: "Gregg, clear this one up for me if you can. Based on what you've seen today, is Welbeck destined to a Stretford End hero or will he join Bardsley and Richardson as a never-quite-was?" asks Matt Wilde. His final ball has been lacking today Matt, but he has caused Chelsea a hell of a lot of problems with his pace and movement. If I had to stick my head on the block though I'd say he'll end up as a never-quite-was. He doesn't look like a natural footballer - more Djibril Cisse than Thierry Henry. Bramble clatters Anelka. Free-kick just outside the box on the right ...
63 min: It's played in low again by Zhirkov ... and cleared. Must do better.
64 min: Sunderland are really going for it on the break. Is it a risky tactic after seeing what United did to Villa yesterday? I'll answer my own question and say "yes it is, but Chelsea look disjointed and low on energy so a third goal would probably kill them off. Maybe it's worthwhile." It's making for a very entertaining second half.
66 min: Chelsea players are flooding into Sunderland's half. But it is all very congested on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area and they lack a Deco-style player to pick the lock. Deco when he was good, mind.
68 min: Chelsea sub: McEachan for Ramires. He's an England under-21 who I have never seen play. An email. "This is the way for United to win the league - sell or loan a few good players to other clubs so that they can knock the stuffing out of Chelsea," writes Fred Lane. "The reverse method - selling secret agent Silvestre to Arsenal - worked quite well too."
70 min: The Chelsea fans, to their credit, are trying to get behind their side. The players are responding. A chipped ball up to Drobga is nodded down to Anelka, who drags a shot a couple of yards wide from 20 yards. A Greg writes to a Gregg: "I guess I'm not alone in now wondering if Chelsea can somehow rescue a result from being two goals down to a mid-table side?" writes Greg Scully. "And, in the event that they do, will it be acclaimed as the mark of champions, as per usual with Chelsea, or a sign of the inevitable decline of a once-great side, as per the current narrative that it is mandatory to attach to Manchester United? I think we all know the answer to that, though, don't we?" Do we? Yes, I suppose we do.
72 min: Sunderland fans are ole-ing their side's every pass now. That's a dangerous tactic. Chelsea's central midfield is seeing very little of the ball. They're having to work it down the flanks to get forwards.
74 min: Sunderland show a little naivety as they go forwards. Richardson is sent scurrying down the right, but instead of waiting for support, he hurries his cross which is hit low and straight to Ivanovic, who imediately sends Zhirkov clear on the left. he sprints up to the byline but horribly overhits his cross and is immediatley substituted. Kakuta coming on in his place.
77 min: Another poor corner. Sack 'em! Zenden fails to beat the first man after Onuoha watches a strike from 25 yards get deflected over the bar. Chelsea are running out of time and already look to have run out of ideas.
78 min: Cattermole gets his mandatory late tackle and strop out of the way as he fouls Mikel in the middle of the Sunderland half. He then races into a tackle a minute later on Kakuta, I think, to win back possession fairly and send Gyan into a good position on the right of Chelsea's penalty box. Gyan slices his shot horribly wide and gets cramp for the trouble.
81 min: Gyan's cramp seems to have morphed into something more serious. He's subbed. Malbranque on in his place. My collegaue James Dart has just tweeted 'It's good to see John Terry refereeing from the stands'. He doesn't miss a trick does JT.
85 min: "McEachan is a fine young player. This is, I believe, his eighth or ninth first-team appearance this season. I also think that were he at Old Trafford or the Emirates, he'd be receiving the kind of glowing reviews that the youth graduates of those esteemed academies regularly get," writes Greg Scully. "You may have already guessed, by the tone of my emails, that I consider most of modern football journalism to be lazy, regurgative, conservative and conformist to preconceived opinion." I'll apologise now Greg. Sunderland look like the home side as they hold possession comfortably before sending Malbranque into the corner to waste some time.
85 min: Lee Cattermole has just Lee-Cattermoled Mikel to the deck. The resulting free-kick is worked through to Anelka on the edge of the box, but his right-footed shot is steered a yard over to the left.
Goal! Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland (Welbeck 87 min) Oh Ashley! Under pressure at left-back Cole shows all the composure of a three-year-old after having drunk four bubble-gum flavoured soft drinks and plays a backpass straight into the path of the effervescent Welbeck, who calmly slots the ball past Cech as the goalkeeper lunges at his feet. Dear me!
89 min: Stamford Bridge is near-empty already. Welbeck is substituted to raptures from the travelling supporters.
90 min: Is Ray Wilkins laughing heartily right now?
90+1 min: "Re: Greg Scully's email: Wounded sarcasm has never won a title," snaps Julian Menz. "On the other hand, losing your best players through injury often results in teams losing the title. Ancelotti hasn't yet made an issue of Chelsea's appalling injury list, but that might well change soon. As in post-match. Just look at the starting 11 today." Chelsea are also still top of the league Julian ... and Drogba is still far from back to full fitness on today's evidence. He goes close off a Chelsea corner, though.
90+3 min: Richardson has a half-chance after Henderson plays him in behind Ashley Cole. He scuffs it well wide, not that it matters.
Full-time: There's hardly anybody left in Stamford Bridge to boo the players off the pitch. It's Chelsea's first defeat at home in eight months. And by a team that lost 7-2 in the same fixture last year. "What's the Italian for 'Sorry, Butch, please come back?'" writes Jim Lacey. Some weirdo in the crowd looks to have ripped up a tee-shirt and written "Bring back Ray Wilkins" on it.
What a bizarre season this is turning out to be. It's so very difficult to predict scorelines with so many teams lacking any kind of consistency. On today's evidence – and that of last Sunday too – Chelsea's midfield is not good enough to wrestle control of games at the moment. They are desperately missing Essien and Lampard. That's taking nothing away from Sunderland, for whom Welbeck, Gyan, Cattermole and Henderson were fantastic today. All of them displaying the energy and bravery that Chelsea lacked. Chelsea will be glad of the international break. I still think they will will finish in the top two, mind. Thanks for your emails.
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