Chelsea vs. Sunderland: 5 Things We Learned
An opener from Samuel Eto'o looked like the start of a torrent, but errors resulted in an equaliser from Connor Wickham, and Sunderland got a winner through a contentious Fabio Borini penalty.
The result looks to be season-defining in terms of its impact on Chelsea's Premier League campaign. So, what did we learn from Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland?
Fortress Mourinho Is No More
77 games without defeat in the Premier League, encompassing two stints as boss and going back to 2004. The Mourinho home record was one of the great wonders of world football. And now it is no more.
The record had looked wobbly at times this season. Notably, an ex-Chelsea man in Steve Clarke almost took it with West Brom, before Ramires claimed a penalty at the last.
When it finally fell, it was toppled by two other former Blues, Sunderland boss Gus Poyet and winning goalscorer Fabio Borini.
Everyone always expected that it had to go, but few expected it would go this way—to the team at the bottom of the league at kick-off as Chelsea battled for a final push at the title.
One of football's most remarkable feats, surely never to be beaten, is now in the past.
Questions Will Have to Be Answered About That Refereeing Performance
From almost the start, Mike Dean seemed to have very little handle on this game—the missed Seb Larsson red card, the missed penalty, the missed yellows for Adam Johnson, the numerous missed handballs.
The Chelsea support sang a song that questioned the loyalties of Mr Dean of The Wirral: “Who's the Scouser in the black.”
Banter aside, nobody will seriously suggest that Mr Dean entered this contest with anything but an open mind. But many will question the competence he displayed at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, for their part, didn't do nearly enough here. But when poor refereeing has as much of an impact on the outcome of a game as it did here, the authorities have questions to answer.
Chelsea's Title Challenge Really Is Now Over
Jose Mourinho himself called it three weeks back at Crystal Palace.
Then, a run of results for others, notably Manchester City's 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland in midweek, set Chelsea pulses racing.
It might happen. It could happen?
Chelsea have three Premier League matches to play. Liverpool, two points clear of them, play their game in hand at Norwich on Sunday.
Chelsea now travel to Madrid for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final—and that has to look like this season's main priority now.
Chelsea Missed Petr Cech
It has been a bit of a national sport at Chelsea, of late, to claim how better off the Blues might be without Petr Cech. Saturday, we saw Chelsea in that status, and many won't want to see it again for a while.
With all respect and sympathy to Mark Schwarzer, who did one of the most difficult things a keeper can do in attempting to come box-fresh off the bench, Cech was deeply missed.
Schwarzer's face said he knew he was to blame for the equaliser Connor Wickham was gifted.
The clamour, of course, is not for Schwarzer to replace Cech, but Thibaut Courtois.
But in Cech, Chelsea have one of the most experienced Premier League goalkeepers who is usually unstintingly reliable.
Careful what you wish for.
Ramires Might Not Be Seen for a While
The challenge by Seb Larsson on Ramires, about to head on goal, was less football than it was British Bulldog. There was no attempt whatsoever to play the ball, and Larsson got away with what looked like a penalty and red card offence.
Then, the red mist descended, and Ramires got in his "afters"—an elbow to Larsson's face, missed by Mike Dean, and an almost certain retrospective red.
It sadly epitomised the Brazilian so neatly—the work ethic of a packhorse and the brains to match.
Having just come back from a three-match ban for a foolish leg-break challenge at Villa Park, he could now miss the rest of Chelsea's domestic season.