Carlo Ancelotti accused his Chelsea players of lacking the necessary "fighting spirit, attitude and mentality" as Sunderland inflicted the heaviest home defeat on the champions during the Roman Abramovich era.
Sunderland, without an away win since April and thrashed 7-2 here in January, ran riot to exploit the lack of depth in Chelsea's squad, with the depleted hosts departing at half-time to jeers from their own supporters. The dissent was more audible still when Ancelotti, overseeing his first match since the sacking of his assistant Ray Wilkins on Thursday, substituted Florent Malouda with Salomon Kalou just before the hour.
Chelsea were losing 2-0 at the time and their afternoon disintegrated further when Ashley Cole's rare mistake was punished by the excellent Danny Welbeck three minutes from time. "I don't think this result had anything to do with what happened to Ray," Ancelotti said. "We lost because Sunderland played better than us. We played our worst game of the season. It was probably the worst we've played since I came here.
"But, in football, this can happen if you're not at your best and don't play with your best mentality. This was a surprise, a strange result, but we didn't play a good game. Sunderland played a fantastic game with more fighting spirit, more attitude and the right mentality. It's normal to lose if you don't show this kind of mentality. Nobody played well."
Ancelotti had lost John Terry to a sciatic nerve problem on the morning of the game, an injury that will rule him out of England's match against France on Wednesday, with the captain joining Frank Lampard and the suspended Michael Essien on the sidelines, and Didier Drogba still labouring as he recovers from malaria. The makeshift defence was duly ripped to pieces by Sunderland, whom bookmakers had at 250-1 to win by this margin prior to kick-off.
Not since Manchester United won 3-0 here in April 2002 have Chelsea been beaten this resoundingly in the Premier League, with this a first defeat at Stamford Bridge since that by Manchester City in February. The visitors mustered 18 attempts on goal, Nedum Onuoha scoring a stunning first-half opener – the first Chelsea had conceded here in the league in 916 minutes stretching to March – with Asamoah Gyan's fourth in three games doubling their advantage after the break.
The win has further helped Sunderland to exorcise the painful memories of the 5-1 derby defeat at Newcastle United last month. "Two weeks ago we were hanged, drawn and quartered and we were humped by seven here last year," said Steve Bruce, who had not overseen a top-flight win in London since his Birmingham side beat Fulham in 2004. "So this is probably my proudest moment as Sunderland's manager. It's not often you beat this lot 3-0 in their backyard and it won't happen very often again.
"Chelsea are so used to playing against one striker and people are usually so frightened coming here – no one wants to get humiliated – but we thought, sod it, we'll give it a go. This was not a fluke. We've played against the top teams and not been beaten. Apart from the debacle a few weeks ago we've been terrific. The boys have rolled up their sleeves since the Newcastle game and turned it around."
Chelsea must now respond in kind, with Ancelotti intending to call his players together for a meeting on Thursday, on their return from internationals, to discuss this shoddy display. A second defeat in three league games has seen their lead at the top trimmed to two points from Arsenal, with the manager hoping this display was exceptional.
"It was a bad day. We will have a meeting about it and look at what happened. I'm not disappointed about the crowd. I heard it [the boos] when I took Malouda off for Kalou. Maybe this was wrong but that's how I saw it from the bench. But I still think the squad is strong enough. We're not happy, because, above all, at home we have to play with a different mentality. But I hope we come back in the right way."