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Chelsea 2 - 0 Sunderland


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Chelsea FC 2 - 0 Sunderland

thebridgezi9.jpgPremier League, 8 December, 15:00 KO, Stamford Bridge, LondonAndrei Shevchenko's first-half header saw Chelsea put Sunderland to the sword at Stamford Bridge as Frank Lampard wrapped up the points with a late penalty.The three points was essential heading into the Christmas programme and with a top-three clash against Arsenal at the Emirates next weekend, the FA Cup holders enter the London derby in fine form. However, the small matter of facing Valencia at home in the Champions League must first be attended to - but with talismanic striker Didier Drogba facing a long spell on the sidelines after knee surgery, the Blues head into a key part of the season without their major goal threat.Sunderland arrived at Stamford Bridge after recording their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season, but with Roy Keane's side having failed to have won a single away game all campaign, there with little chance of his team performing an upset on the road. A draw or better for Chelsea, who began the day in third place, would see their unbeaten home run extended to 71 in the league as well as maintaining the pressure on pacesetters Arsenal and Manchester United. It was the perfect opportunity to pull clear of Liverpool who languished in fourth - the Reds were defeated in the day's late kick-off to solidify Chelsea's position in the table.With the luxury of having already qualified for the next round of European competition, Avram Grant chose to field the strongest possible side. Yet with injury and suspension taking its toll on the Chelsea side, it was hardly a first-choice starting eleven. With precautions being taken over Petr Cech, it was Carlo Cudicini who maintained his position in goal. The backline was unchanged from the West Ham game a week earlier, save that Ashley Cole replaced Wayne Bridge at left-back. Ballack was still out and Malouda was given time to fully recover from injury, so Mikel and Lampard anchored a four-man midfield as Grant opted to field a 4-4-2 over his preferred 4-3-3 method. Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole operated on the wings whilst Kalou supported Shevchenko up front. _44288581_sheva203.jpgAndrei Shevchenko made only his eighth start of the campaign, but rewarded his manager with the opening goal.The game began at an electric pace, with the home side surging forward. Their early pressure was almost rewarded, as a succession of corners lead to Kalou heading against the crossbar. Joe Cole's whipped corner found the Ivorian youngster in space, and his towering leap left Darren Ward and the Sunderland goal at his mercy, but his effort ricocheted off of the underside of the woodwork and eventually cleared to safety.Chelsea were camped in the Sunderland half, but Roy Keane's side were well drilled in defence, as they had demonstrated at Old Trafford earlier in the season away to Manchester United. John Terry was given licence to roam forward and play as part of the midfield as Wright-Phillips switched to a more central role. However, for all of Chelsea's dominance, they were creating few chances. Lampard and Kalou combined before the Ivorian made a darting run into the box. John Terry did well to shield the ball from a Sunderland defender, allowing the Chelsea number 21 several yards of space in the box. He did well to beat his man and delivered an inch-perfect cross to the far stick. Shevchenko duly scored - the Ukrainian skipper flinging himself to connect with the ball to make the breakthrough. It was Shevchenko's fifth goal of an inconsistent season, but despite his bit-part role in the team, he demonstrated his ability to find himself in the right place at the right time and get his name on the score sheet once again._44288896_shevchenko270.jpgShevchenko's diving header put Chelsea on the road to victory with twenty-three minutes of time elapsed.Sunderland were limited to just a couple of half-chances in the first-half, with Kenwyne Jones' low drive the best of the opportunities. The former Southampton striker made a yard of space for himself but his effort was straight at Cudicini, warming the gloves of the goalkeeper. At the other end, whilst Chelsea were limited to a number of long-range efforts, they continuously tested Ward with a series of testing crosses, but failed to get the second goal their first half display warranted. Penalty claims for the home side were turned down by the referee, but there was time for Wallace to end up in the referee's note book.Higginbotham and McShane were excellent in the second period as they limited Chelsea to long range efforts. Shevchenko went close when he looked to lob Ward from outside the area. The goalkeeper's clearance was weak, and Shevchenko looked to pounce. With the goalkeeper bearing down on him, he did well to clip the ball towards the far post, but the shot was directed off-target.Jones had a brilliant opportunity to level for Sunderland, but he headed wide from a tight angle with Cudicini rooted to the spot. He did well to lose Alex following good work by Wallace on the wing and should have done better, but Alex did just enough to recover and distract the big striker to head wide. Greg Halford's strike was straight at Cudicini and substitute Murphy blazed wide from range.But Chelsea tied up the game when Alex was tugged in the box. Lampard's delivery after Joe Cole won a freekick on the wide left saw the Brazilian go for the ball, but Higginbotham was determined not to let him pass and get a hold of the defender's shirt. Lampard duly scored from the spot; his 98th goal in Chelsea colours. The win means Chelsea are three points behind leaders Arsenal and four clear of Liverpool, although both teams do have games-in-hand over both the Blues and second-placed Manchester United._44288743_frank416ap.jpgLampard and Shevchenko celebrate the 76th-minute penalty dispatched by the England midfielder._______________________________________The Manager's Reaction : Avram Grant's post match interview saw the Chelsea coach satisfied with his team's performance. "It was a very mature performance," began Grant. "we looked for opportunities to find the second goal which we got in the second half with a penalty. I must say it was good work from the team."Match Fact : In Avram Grant's tenure in charge of Chelsea, he has won 12, drawn three and lost just one of his 16 matches.Chelsea: Cudicini (6), Belletti (6), Alex (6), Terry (7), Ashley Cole (8), Wright-Phillips (6), Mikel (6), Lampard (7), Joe Cole (7) (Sidwell (6)), Kalou (7) (Pizarro (6)), Shevchenko (8).Subs Not Used: Hilario, Bridge, Ben-Haim. Goals: Shevchenko 23, Lampard 76. Sunderland: Ward, Halford, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins, Miller, Leadbitter (Stokes 70), Etuhu, Whitehead, Wallace, Jones (Murphy 67).Subs Not Used: Gordon, Yorke, Cole. Sent Off: Miller (88). Booked: Wallace. Attendance: 41,707 Referee: Peter Walton Man of the Match : Andrei Shevchenko_44288585_shevap300.jpg

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