Chelsea FC Held By Sunderland At Stadium Of Light… Literally


Chelsea FC have a real problem with Sunderland now — three games vs the Black cats, zero wins. This makes Gus Poyet the new thorn in the Chelsea’s side, his men knocked them out of the Capital One Cup, and beat them at Stamford Bridge last season.

Today, Jose Mourinho’s rampant Blues could only squeeze one point from their encounter at the Stadium of light. Sunderland were resolute in defending, they managed to keep Chelsea scoreless for the first time this season, dealing with every ball which came into their area.

Diego Costa — who had only failed to score against Manchester City and QPR — will be adding Sunderland to his very short to-do list. The striker was hardly a threat against the Roker Lads’ valiant defense.

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Chelsea’s approach is to blame though; with Sunderland content to camp around their box and allow them (Chelsea) possession, they tried to work the ball into the box through the tight spaces they were afforded. They kept narrow throughout the game, refusing to stretch the play and work crosses in from the flanks.

The way Sunderland were set up, Mourinho could have probably thought about bringing Andre Schurrle on much earlier than he did, as he is the only player who is a true wide man within the squad.

Sunderland’s plan worked to perfection, the stifled Chelsea and allowed minimum mobility. If you look at the way Costa has scored — both for Chelsea and Atletico Madrid — you notice that he hardly operates within tight spaces. He is either running off the shoulder off the last defender, picking balls out of the air, or getting on a loose ball in the box — mostly.

The striker was in no man’s land today, he could not do any of the aforementioned, as Sunderland did not play a high defensive line, he was also surrounded in the box and had no space to create anything. Chelsea’s best chance to score would have probably come from crossing, but they continued with their attempts to thread balls into the box, to the point that it got quite boring really.

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The Blues could have also scored from set pieces, and should have been given at least one penalty for players being grabbed and brought down in the box. Gary Cahill fell victim twice, and captain John Terry suffered the very same fate. This seems to be the new tactic for defending against Chelsea set pieces: find Terry, find Cahill, and take them down. This worked to perfection at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, and it was mimicked today.

This isn’t to take away from Sunderland’s performance, they played brilliantly on the defensive end and came close to getting a goal in the first half when Santiago Vergini’s shot hit the crossbar. They stopped the ruthless Blues from scoring, and that is an incredible feat for a team which let Southampton score eight goals against them earlier in the season.

As well as Sunderland played, the Blues deserved a penalty for their troubles. Wilfried Bony was awarded a penalty after Ryan Shawcross took him down in similar fashion, when Stoke and Swansea squared off in October, but the majority of the time, defenders get away with such fouls.

The Blues will now have to face Tottenham without Costa on Wednesday, as the forward will be serving an automatic suspension after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season for a foul on Wes Brown. The Blues have adequate backup in Didier Drogba and Loic Remy, but they cannot afford another slip up.

Manchester City and Southampton — who face each other tomorrow — now have a chance to close the gap. Chelsea should avoid dropping any more points at all costs, if they are to maintain their stronghold at the top of the league.