Eden Hazard put in a man-of-the-match performance and Phil Bardsley scored twice—once on his own goalkeeper—as Chelsea prevailed in a seven-goal thriller with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Hazard also assisted on Frank Lampard’s goal that had cancelled out Jozy Altidore’s opener, and after surviving a late wave of pressure from their hosts, the Blues managed to escape the North East with all three points on Wednesday.
But it was Sunderland who made the better start to this midweek Premier League encounter. Both Emanuele Giaccherini and Fabio Borini came close in the initial moments before Altidore opened the scoring just prior to the quarter-hour mark following a blocked free-kick on the edge of the Chelsea area.
The guests didn’t trail for long, however, as Hazard did well to beat Bardsley down the right before crossing to Lampard, who made no mistake from close in.
From there the match settled for a time, although Andrea Dossena might have put his side back in front in the 32nd minute after getting two cracks at the target. Barely a minute later Fernando Torres skied his effort after Juan Mata’s corner.
Then, in the 36th minute, Hazard had his first after running on to Torres’ headed pass, cutting inside Bardsley once again and driving a low, hard shot inside the far corner of the goal.
Torres flicks his header on to Hazard, wide left. He cuts inside and bends his shot away from Mannone into the corner. 2-1. #CFCLive— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) December 4, 2013
Five minutes after the restart, Sunderland were level—John O’Shea taking advantage of a Giaccherini corner that glanced off John Terry before landing at the Irishman’s feet.
But again Chelsea answered and again it was Hazard offering the riposte.
With Bardsley and Sebastian Larsson setting up to defend Hazard in the 62nd minute, the Belgian initiated a neat one-two with Lampard that ended with another cut inside, another set of red-faced Black Cats and another spectacular finish past Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looked to shut up shop after retaking the lead and deployed John Obi Mikel in place of Mata with nine minutes to play. And when Bardsley’s own goal from Demba Ba’s cross gave the tourists a two-goal cushion, it appeared to be game over for the hosts.
But a furious final few minutes culminated with Bardsley atoning for his error following a corner, although in this instance Sunderland simply ran out of time as Chelsea posted their ninth win of the campaign.
Key Player Grades
Eden Hazard: A+
Hazard scored twice, picked up an assist, took five shots at goal, touched the ball 85 times and completed 91 per cent of his passes at the Stadium of Light, as well as offering regular contributions on the defensive side of the ball. (Statistics courtesy WhoScored.com)
Frank Lampard: A
He misplaced a few passes in the first half, but in an overall solid performance the England man also scored a goal, assisted on another and threw himself into three successful tackles. He also attempted four shots and completed 84 per cent of his passes.
Jozy Altidore: A-
The United States international scored his first Premier League goal for Sunderland on Wednesday and generally put himself about usefully in his side’s build-up play. He also dropped back frequently to provide an extra body on the counter-attack and made a handful of interceptions.
Next up for Sunderland, who remain at the bottom of the table, is a home match against Tottenham on Saturday followed by a trip to West Ham the following weekend. Chelsea, meanwhile, are away to Stoke on Saturday and will welcome Steaua Bucharest to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League on Wednesday.