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Match Report: Chelsea 1-0 Sunderland - Plenty Of Pride & Positives To Take From Defeat

Frank Lampard - Not invited to the next party, the big party ruining git.
Frank Lampard - Not invited to the next party, the big party ruining git.

Such has been the "Martin O'Neill Effect" that it's almost as if I'd forgotten how to feel following a defeat. At the same time, such has been the afore mentioned effect, that we're walking away from Stamford Bridge scratching our heads at how we've come away with nothing.

At times we looked like the home side, pinning Chelsea back and having them rattled, but much like the Tottenham Hotspur game earlier in the season, the performance was there, but not the cutting edge to actually get it...

Only one change in the starting line-up from O'Neill, which saw Craig Gardner unluckily finding himself on the bench as Nicklas Bendtner returned to the starting line-up following a knee knock. It was rumoured prior to kick off that Fraizer Campbell would have a spot on the bench, but that turned out to be nothing but a rumour.

It was certainly us who enjoyed the better of the opening ten minutes. The first chance of the game for either side fell to us, and James McClean will be left thinking he could have done much better when Stephane Sessegnon played him in.

Kieran Richardson was next to play the role of provider, as his fizzing cross played in Bendtner, but Jose Bosingwa was on hand to just about do enough to put the lanky Dane off. David Vaughan quickly followed suit with a delicious ball into the area which nobody could meet.

Sebastian Larsson had a sighter at goal parried well by Petr Cech, with the best Chelsea could muster in those opening ten minutes a soft header which went well wide from the anti-goal himself, Fernando Torres.

These opening ten minutes very much set the scene for the rest of the game, which would have been fine had it not been for Chelsea opening the scoring in the thirteenth minute.

A spectacular volley from Torres, reminiscent of Larsson's stunner at Anfield on the opening day of the season, crashed back off the crossbar. It could have fell anywhere, there were Sunderland players scattered around the area and only Frank Lampard lurking for the hosts. It fell to the corpulent cockney to tap-in.

That seemed to take the wind out of our sails for a while. We looked around trying to regain a foothold, whilst the Blues slowed the game down to their pace and took temporary control. Juan Mata tested Simon Mignolet with a good free-kick. There was a looping Ramires cross which Torres couldn't do anything with, and Ashley Cole couldn't catch Mignolet out with a cheeky attempt in the aftermath. Raul Meireles, who had a very good game I felt, had a snap-shot from the edge of the area that didn't test our Belgian stopper.

In between this spell of dominance, if only judged possession wise, we managed one moment of magic. Stephane Sessegnon playing a delicious one two with Nicklas Bendtner, and the on loan striker, who did everything right saw his low drive go a whisper wide of the post.

As thoughts turned towards the break there was some terrible news for Matt Kilgallon. A fairly innocuous jump with Torres saw the recently returning defender slump. The early news is ankle ligament damage. It would be greatly unfortunate if it was serious, but he did have to be taken off on a stretcher.

The main thought at half-time was that we were by no means out of it, plenty of positives to take, and if we can just take our chances then who knows. Unfortunately come full-time the same thoughts repeated. Until then thoughh lets recant the second half...

It started strongly with Sessegnon's half volley flying straight at Petr Cech, but still the signs were there that we were a danger. There were penalty appeals at both ends of the pitch, Torres - No, Bendtner - Yes. And that's not even with red and white tinted glasses, the outcomes seemed fairly obvious to all but Phil Dowd, who chose to give neither team a spot kick.

David Vaughan, who had yet another quietly impressive game, came close to breaking through with a wicked low shot going inches wide from 25-yards, all this before an unbelievable miss that only Nicklas Bendtner and possibly Craig Gardner would 'better' later on.

Seb Larsson played in by Sessegnon and the Swede did everything right in heading towards goal, drawing Cech off his line and chipping back for McClean. The young Irishman however sent his shot wide with the goal gaping from all of 6 yards. A truly awful miss. You wondered whether that was our chance to get back into it. McClean also missed another good chance minutes later, we'll not dwell on it though, and hope the watching Giovanni Trappatoni doesn't either.

After a fairly subdued period for both teams, things kicked off again in the 80th minute. Started by the replacement of Kieran Richardson with Connor Wickham, it seemed to give us a bit of a kick up the backside. McClean surged down the wing, repeatedly sending in top quality deliveries which almost vanquished the misses of earlier.

Indeed it was one of his crosses which lead to Cech parrying the ball into the feet of Gardner, but unfortunately he couldn't direct it goalwards. Then, it was Gardner who had THE CHANCE. Or at least it seemed at the time...

Sessegnon danced past two Chelsea defenders like they were invisible, a sumptuous ball was played to an unmarked Craig Gardner, lurking around the penalty spot. Gardner, the man who has been in great form, smashing them in form all distances, he had to score... he didn't. That was to be it. Or so we thought.

With thirty seconds remaining on the clock, heads did not drop. Connor Wickham played in Nicklas Bendtner... the Dane was through, David Luiz inexplicably falling on his arse... Bendtner, true to recent form, could only find the middling rows of The Shed End.

THAT, was the chance. Seconds later Dowd put the whistle to his mouth instead of a pork pie for once, and the game was done.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (6), O'Shea (7), Kilgallon (6), Richardson (7), Vaughan (7), Cattermole (7), Larsson (7), McClean (7), Sessegnon (8), Bendtner (6)

Subs Used: Turner (6), Gardner (6), Wickham (6)

Man Of The Match: Stephane Sessegnon - I'll level with you, I'm running out of superlatives for Sessegnon. He was a constant torment for Chelsea defenders and midfielders all over the park, and pretty much everything we did positive, and there was a lot of positives had a heavy dose of Sessegnon in there.

And that was that. As said at the top of things here, it's a testament to how far we've come that coming away from Chelsea with a 1-0 defeat seems slightly heartbreaking. We seemed to do absolutely everything right, but on the day we just couldn't finish.

The "Party With Marty" hasn't been derailed though. It's merely that point in the party where a song you're not particularly keen on has come on, and you're off to the kitchen to fetch another one of them miniature bottles of French beer until the next decent song comes on and you can resume dancing.

I'm sure the dancing shoes will be back on over the next few weeks with three winnable games against Swansea, Norwich and Middlesborough in the FA Cup.

The good times are still rolling on. Ha'way The Lads.

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