Fernando Torres scored his fourth goal in two games to lead Chelsea to their first Premier League victory under Rafael Benitez. The 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light was Chelsea’s first win in eight league matches, dating back to Roberto Di Matteo’s time in charge.
For Sunderland, their dismal run continues and, with five defeats in their last seven league encounters, there can be little surprise that they now find themselves in the relegation zone.
The result rarely looked in doubt on Saturday after Fernando Torres picked up where he left off in a 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland on Wednesday by putting Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute. A second goal for the £50 million striker followed before half time before his fellow Spaniard finished from close range just after the break. Adam Johnson’s consolation will do little to alleviate the gloom descending on Sunderland manager Martin O’Neil.
Chelsea can now head off to Japan and the FIFA Club World Cup in improved spirits and in the knowledge that at least one of the two Manchester sides above them will drop points in the derby on Sunday.
Still, before Chelsea can once again think of a title challenge they need to get their own house back in order and the signs were encouraging on Wearside.
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Chelsea came out of the blocks firing and could even have been ahead before a quick break from Chelsea saw Victor Moses find Eden Hazard in a threatening position down the left. The Belgian crossed the ball into Torres at the near post who prodded the volley home with the underside of his boot to give the visitors a confidence-building early lead.
Sunderland looked like they would at least be able to get into half-time with just a one-goal deficit but then committed an atrocious error to gift Chelsea a penalty. With Ramires heading toward the byline and posing little danger, Sebastian Larsson made a ridiculous lunge from behind to bring the Brazilian to the ground and give the referee the simplest of decisions to point to the spot.
Despite David Luiz scoring a penalty against Nordsjaelland in midweek, Torres appeared to assert his desire to take the spot kick and showed his renewed confidence by clinically sending Simon Mignolet the wrong way.
Four minutes after the break, another Sunderland defensive lapse saw Chelsea put the result beyond doubt. Instead of clearing, Phil Bardsley tried to chest down a ball into the box and instead merely took it into the path of Torres, who narrowly missed out on a hat-trick as his powerful effort struck the underside of the cross bar. Sunderland were to have no reprieve, though, as Juan Mata seized on the rebound and slotted the ball home first time.
There was at least something to cheer for the Sunderland faithful as Johnson picked up the ball out on the left of the area and cut across an ambitious effort that Petr Cech decided was going wide and was left red faced when the ball bent inside the far post.