My Favourite Game: Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland

Michael Regan

Resuming our series on favourite Sunderland games, Nick Holden casts his mind back a few years to when a swashbuckingly Sunderland blew away one of the best teams in the land...

I'd love to say that I had an incredibly difficult time picking just one game for this feature, but frankly that would be a little bit of a lie. Sometimes it can feel like Sunderland are a tad miserly when handing out joyous memories of wonderful games. Of course, the scintillating destruction of Newcastle at the end of last season immediately springs to mind, as does the hoodoo-ending victory over Everton the next week, but I decided to delve a tad deeper back and go for a victory back in November 2010 away at top-of-the-table Chelsea.

In the build-up to the game, it certainly did not seem likely that Sunderland would record such a memorable performance. Chelsea were unbeaten at home since February, and the lads were not so far removed from That Which Shall Not Be Named at St. James' Park. Add to this the absence of Darren Bent, and the dearly departed (from the club, not the earth - he's not dead now, just in East London; which is actually fairly similar) Titus Bramble playing in the centre of defence, and there seemed many reasons for Sunderland to be worried coming into this fixture.

However, any fears were proved to be utterly unfounded. Steve Bruce decided to be bold in his starting line up, picking both Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan in attack, and boy did it pay off. Chelsea started off strongly, but missed several early chances. As the first half went on, Sunderland began to exert more and more pressure on the Champions, with Petr Cech forced into making several saves to deny various Sunderland players. Sunderland's attacks were beautifully fluid, with through balls being threaded through on the counter-attack to release the pacey duo of Gyan and Welbeck. Clearly rattled by the pair's movements, Branislav Ivanovic was lucky to get away with just a yellow card when he cynically tripped Welbeck as the young striker was racing to get free on goal.

Such underhand tactics would prove to be in vain. Just before half-time, after yet another dangerous Sunderland counter-attack, the ball was cleared from the Chelsea box only to fall at the feet of the Manchester City loanee Nedum Onuoha. With several Chelsea defenders between the full-back and the goal, his route appeared to be blocked, but instead of hitting a shot from distance or laying the ball off, Onuoha ran straight at his opponents, and preceded to dance beautifully through the Chelsea defence before sliding his shot into the bottom corner of Cech's goal. It was an utterly sensational goal, truly beautiful, and all the better due to coming from a solid but not spectacular utility defender. Even on a Leo Messi showreel, such a goal would have provoked sighs of admiration, but to see it come from a defender in a red-and-white shirt was truly awe-inspiring. It's still one of my favourite Sunderland goals.

So Sunderland went in at half time 1-0 up after a performance well deserving of the lead. But, as every Sunderland fan knows, 1-0 at half time is a scoreline to destined only to lead to disappointment and heart-wreckingly high stress levels at the end of the game. More would be needed if Steve Bruce's team was to close this out. Was there more to come? You can bet your house there was.

Not long after the break another flowing Sunderland attack concluded with an inch perfect ball from Jordan Henderson, newly called up to the England squad for the first time, to the feet of Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanian was left with just Cech to beat, and did so with aplomb - producing a lovely controlled finish low around the Chelsea goalkeeper. As the striker raced off to the corner flag to celebrate, possibly the high point of a fantastic match occurred. Gyan broke into his trademark body-popping dance celebration, and the first player to join him was Bolo Zenden who imitated "Baby Jet"'s moves with a truly magnificent Dad-Dance. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment, and I'm happy that in his short spell as Chelsea's assistant manager last season Bolo was rewarded with being able to sit most weeks at the scene of his greatest triumph.

Even with a 2-0 lead, Sunderland continued to be aggressive and proactive. Several more chances were missed before, in the last few minutes, Kieran Richardson harried Ashley Cole into making a ludicrous mistake. Under severe pressure, the England left-back attempted to pass the ball across to Cech, but instead succeeded in sending the perfect assist to Danny Welbeck who was standing unmarked in the Chelsea box. The on-loan striker made no mistake, and finished easily into an empty net to round off an excellent performance.

The game really did have everything. Sunderland went at one of the big boys of English football bravely, and were duly rewarded for their efforts. To give Steve Bruce credit, his bravery in selecting two out-and-out attackers in Gyan and Welbeck paid off brilliantly, and his side played some lovely flowing football throughout the match. Add to that two excellent goals from Onuoha and Gyan, a hilarious mistake from everyone's least favourite left-back, and a goal celebration for the ages from Zenden and it all tots up to a great, great game.

So everyone, do the safety dance and remember when we walloped Chelsea in their own fetid backyard.

"We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine."



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