After an impressive 2-0 win over Bolton got his Sunderland career off to a good start, Steve Bruce sprang a selection surprise before his team took on Chelsea by handing 19 year old Jordan Henderson his first league start for the club.
Henderson had made his Premier League debut the year before from the bench – ironically, against Chelsea – but he lined up from the off alongside new signings, club captain Lorik Cana and tenacious midfielder Lee Cattermole, against an array of Chelsea stars, including Deco, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Andriy Shevchencko.
Sunderland went ahead on 18 minutes through Darren Bent, also on his home debut, and held the lead until just after half time when Ballack, Lampard and Deco all scored in the space of 18 minutes to secure the three points for the West Londoners.
After the game, Bruce wasn’t too downbeat, but admitted his side had been outclassed.
Sometimes, you just have to hold your hands up and say you got beaten by an excellent team. That was as good a Chelsea performance as I’ve witnessed in the Premier League. They were absolutely excellent.
Sometimes, you just have to take it on the chin. We were gallant, we tried and we got a break. But sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say we were outclassed.
You get a goal, and it gives you hope, but we could never really get to grips with Chelsea’s system whatever we tried to do.
There were a lot of positives.
You could see why Lorik Cana captained Marseille, and it will be good for the young kid (Henderson) to have tested himself against Ashley Cole.
The kid ran a million miles. He did very, very well in the first half.
It was a decent performance, and we all knew Chelsea were a class apart – it wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about, and we’d actually given them a good run for their money.
Bruce’s side was set to be further supplemented with the arrival of John Mensah, on loan with a view to a £6m move, but for Henderson at least, it was a night at the Stadium of Light to remember.