Chelsea Blow the Title and Jose Mourinho's Unbeaten Record with It

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Chelsea Blow the Title and Jose Mourinho's Unbeaten Record with It
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STAMFORD BRIDGE, London — We've been here before, haven't we?

It was supposed to be a formality against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea were supposed to lay down the gauntlet to Liverpool and go back to the top of the Premier League.

It was the opposite.

After 78 Premier League matches, Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home record is gone, with the Black Cats coming away 2-1 winners. More significantly, Chelsea's hopes of lifting the title have disappeared, too.

Facing Liverpool at Anfield next weekend, the Blues' destiny was in their own hands after Manchester City slipped up against Sunderland in midweek.

With goal difference working against them, they must now hope the Reds lose at least twice before the season is out, while City themselves make one more error.

But with just three games remaining in the season—four for Liverpool, five for City—it's looking unlikely.

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When referee Mike Dean blew his final whistle, every fan inside inside Stamford Bridge knew it. When he addressed the press after, it was clear Mourinho does, too.

The Chelsea boss has been quiet of late, leaving media commitments to assistant Steve Holland. If journalists had been missing him, they got more than they could have bargained for when the Portuguese greeted them.

"I will not wait for your questions, I'm so sorry about it," said Mourinho. "In four quick points I can say everything I want to say, so we're not going to waste time."

And so his two-minute, 20-second statement began, praising his players for their efforts and congratulating Sunderland on their victory.

Mourinho's comments about the performance of Dean were the most significant:

I want to congratulate again, but this time Mike Dean. I think his performance was unbelievable.

When referees have unbelievable performances, it's fair that we give them this. [...] I think it's also fair that we give congratulations to Mike Riley because he's the referees boss and what they are doing during the whole season is fantastic, especially in the last couple of months, especially matches that involve teams that were in the title race.

It's with more than a hint of sarcasm that we must take those comments after a spat of penalty claims went against Chelsea.

There were handball claims, suggestions of foul play and much more.

The one penalty that was awarded went against Chelsea, however, when Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged to have fouled Jozy Altidore.

On loan from Liverpool—and a former Chelsea trainee—Fabio Borini made no mistake from 12 yards.

You couldn't have written it.

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Mourinho has a point, though. It was soft, and for league titles to rest on such decisions is a major frustration for him—a point that Sunderland boss Gus Poyet seemed to agree with.

"I would be fuming [if the penalty was awarded against us]," said Poyet.

Frustrated, fuming—the list of emotions could go on.

Given the significance of this game, it was a bizarre decision to appoint a referee from the Wirral to take charge. Poor decisions or not, Dean was always going to be unfairly under the spotlight from the off, and have his loyalties and professionalism questioned.

Every decision he made was going to be scrutinized.

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It's the decisions from the Chelsea dugout that should be looked at, though.

Even before Borini's winner, Chelsea's title hopes were slipping away from them. They had taken the lead after 12 minutes through Samuel Eto'o, but they offered little else in front of goal. This was a poor display.

That Chelsea allowed Connor Wickham to score from Sunderland's first meaningful attack just six minutes after Eto'o's opener spelt out the danger.

Mark Schwarzer—deputizing for the sick Petr Cech—should have done better when he spilled a long-range effort, allowing Wickham to pounce and so too should have Chelsea throughout.

Mourinho's team lacked creativity as they struggled to break down the Black Cats who, for large parts, had 10 men in their defensive third, desperate to avoid a defeat that would all but end their survival hopes.

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Oscar disappointed and, without Eden Hazard, there wasn't much else by way of flair.

In many ways, it sums up Chelsea's season: they were on the brink, but they let it slip away. Again.

Sure, some poor decisions from officials played their part, but Chelsea were the ones at fault.

In the past two months, defeats to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and now Sunderland have derailed Chelsea's league campaign. For any club wanting to be champions, that simply isn't good enough.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes

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