It was always going to be interesting to see how Sunderland took to the game given the strength of the opposition, and it was a delight to see the visitors come out fighting and for at least the first twenty minutes be perhaps the better team.
Within two minutes we could have had the lead through Stephane Sessegnon. Playing in a strike partnership with Connor Wickham, the Beninese international managed to get through into the six-yard box but from a tight angle managed only to smash into the side netting with his partner placed handily for a tap in had he pulled it back.
Chelsea's activity in the opening throws was minimal barring Oscar's strike from distance which went well over and a string of corners which came to nothing.
Things came well and truly to life in the 17th minute when David Luiz smashed a free-kick into the wall from a central position. The ball wriggled through to Demba Ba who's effort was blocked superbly by Matt Kilgallon twice in the the space of two seconds. Outstanding defending AND Matt Kilgallon going together as one, if any further proof of the impact Paolo Di Canio has made already.
The action wasn't over though.
Sessegnon broke down the left wing and as bodies streamed forward he cut inside and played it to an unmarked Adam Johnson. Johnson perhaps took a touch too much and saw his curling effort headed away by Luiz.
Things quietened down a period but Sunderland didn't look any less confident. The team seemed to be more fired up than they had in weeks, with Sessegnon particularly catching the eye in the first half as he provided all sorts of problems for Chelsea's defence, and was always an available outlet for us playing the ball out from the back.
A neat run from Johnson saw the ball whisked off his toes on the half hour but Sessegnon's shot didn't make any real impact, and neither did Connor Wickham's follow-up effort, while at the other end Demba Ba set himself up for an overhead kick which trickled wide without Simon Mignolet breaking sweat.
Chelsea forced a chance when Oscar dinked a cross to Eden Hazard at the back post but the Belgian's header proved to be an easy gather for Mignolet.
Our strength and confidence was growing despite chances looking at a premium owing to referee Neil Swarbrick's insistence on dishing out as many free-kicks as possible in the first half but no Sunderland fan could be disappointed with how things were going. If they were, well those frowns were soon turned upside down when on the stroke of half time we took the lead.
Some silky skills from Sessegnon near the halfway line allowed him to feed Wickham to have a strike at goal, deflected wide for a corner. Johnson stepped up with the in-swinger which John O'Shea met at the front post, and Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta mis-hit into his own net.
Players, fans and management all rapturous for a goal and a half time lead which was nothing less than we deserved.
The lead however was cancelled out almost immediately after the break through another own goal, this time from Matt Kilgallon.
Substitute Fernando Torres raced at the Sunderland defence and played in Oscar inside the area. As Mignolet came to meet him the Brazilian took a very heavy touch which was caught by Kilgallon and the ball trickled agonisingly over the line before a covering and slipping Danny Rose could get anywhere near it on the line.
Things seemed flat for Sunderland in the second period. Ball's were not running for us any more, first touches looked heavy and perhaps there was a touch of nerves having taken the lead.
This was always the worry given the incredible first half performance you had to wonder somewhere in your brain if we could keep that intensity up. For at least the first 15-minutes of the second half we couldn't as the home side took the lead.
Azpilicueta's shot from distance was deflected over the top for a corner. From the resulting corner O'Shea nodded away from the box but only as far as Luiz who's effort ricocheted off Branislav Ivanovic to nestle into the back of the net.
The home side continued to turn the screw as we tried to reset ourselves. Oscar almost made it 3-1 having thumped a poor punch from Mignolet into the side netting from inside the penalty area as the clock ticked over the hour mark.
Torres was proving to be a difference maker for Chelsea and he almost got himself on the scoresheet when he headed over a cross from Oscar with the visitors still at this stage looking to work out what to do next.
Adam Johnson had some ideas and drove superbly at the heart of Chelsea's defence however as he is accustomed to doing, he opted for placement rather than power, and he still managed to put the ball well wide from a good position.
James McClean and Jack Colback were both introduced as the game entered it's final few moments at the expense of Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner who'd both had less than stellar performances.
For the final twenty minutes or so Sunderland lacked spark, and Chelsea moved into cruise-control territory with the points seemingly won.
For the final five minutes though we managed to apply a bit of pressure winning a corner or two but Petr Cech was rarely troubled by what little we did throw at him.
Ultimately we paid a heavy price for a poor second half, but there was enough fight and spirit was shown in the first half to suggest we might be able to just get out of this relegation battle we find ourselves in.
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