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Stubborn Sunderland deny Mourinho's Blues


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Chelsea were forced to surrender two points in their charge to the Premier League title by Sunderland's stubborn resistance.

The Black Cats, recently hammered 8-0 by Chelsea's nearest challengers Southampton, were resolute defensively and also caused José Mourinho's men a number of scares as the Blues were made to accept a stalemate.

It is the first time this term that Chelsea have failed to find the back of the net, and their ability to do so in their next game will be diminished as Diego Costa's fifth yellow card of the season means he misses Wednesday's derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho accused Sunderland's defence of purposely trying to wind up the nationalised Spaniard, who was eventually yellow carded for a flailing arm in an aerial clash with Wes Brown, but the Portuguese later admitted that the former Atletico Madrid man may well have been rested for Wednesday's match given his iffy fitness record since his mega-money switch to the West London outfit in July.

Two dropped points means that either of Southampton and Manchester City can take advantage of this unexpected slip-up from the Blues when the two sides meet on Sunday afternoon at St. Mary's, but the smallest that Chelsea's advantage can be reduced to at this stage is four points if Southampton win or five points if City can overcome their opponent, with a share of the spoils meaning their lead would remain at six points - all still considerable advantages considering how early in the season it still is.

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The Blues and their fearsome attack which had seen them net 48 times in their 19 previous games this term were left to look completely impotent by Sunderland's organised defence, with one excellent save from Branislav Ivanovic's angled drive by Costel Pantillimon and a Willian strike that the former Manchester City goalkeeper diverted onto the post representing the sum of Chelsea's attacking endeavours.

But Sunderland, growing in confidence as the game wore on, hit the woodwork themselves when centre-back Vergini, on loan from Argentine club Estudiantes, unexpectedly popped up in the area to divert a deflected cross goalwards. If anything, the Argentine -

- hit his effort too well, with a scuffed effort more likely to beat Thibaut Courtois from close range.

Sunderland rarely threatened, with one Connor Wickham shot from distance almost catching Courtois off guard arguably their next-best opportunity, but the later introduction of Josy Altidore - whose only previous league goal for the Black Cats came in this fixture last season - did cause one or two moments of panic in the Chelsea penalty area, with Courtois called into action when he had to smother at the feet of the big American.

Didier Drogba and Loic Remy were both introduced late on as Mourinho hauled off the ineffective Costa, who, having been booked for his challenge on Brown and for one previous tussle with John O'Shea, left to a chorus of pantomime jeers. That change seemed to give Chelsea more of an attacking threat, but despite Drogba's excellent turn and shot across the face of goal, the Blues were still unable to muster any maintained threat on the Sunderland goal.

Chelsea will have to up their performance when they host Tottenham on Wednesday. With Costa suspended, at least one change will be enacted by Mourinho, who must now shuffle his pack after a jaded showing here. This is the third time Chelsea have dropped points in the league this season - and each time those results have come after midweek Champions League fixtures. Mourinho knows he will have to adopt a strict policy of rotation as the games continue to come thick and fast.

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