Chelsea vs. Sunderland Review
Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland
It was a beautiful sunny day at Stamford Bridge. One of the most exciting premier league seasons in recent memory wound up in a massive day of football, with a packed fixture list played out across ten different venues in England and Wales.
Antonio Conte selected a strong squad for Chelsea’s final game of the season versus Sunderland, picking his usual starting eleven bar three changes: Cesc Fabregas was picked ahead of Nemanja Matic in midfield, and Willian and John Terry started their second consecutive game, ahead of Pedro and Gary Cahill respectively. For the visitors, Jermain Defoe missed the game due to injury.
The preference for experience over youth today was unsurprising, with Conte needing to keep his best players match sharp for the FA Cup final in six days time, and Chelsea also chasing a record-breaking 30th league win in a 38-game season.
The home fans had several reasons to celebrate, with a title win and morale-boosting victory over Tottenham in the last few weeks, followed today by reports that the manager’s family would “soon” be moving from Italy to England. The stands were festooned with banners celebrating both the championship and team captain John Terry, who played his final game at Stamford Bridge after 22 years of outstanding service to the club.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Willian, Hazard, Costa
Subs: Begovic, Zouma, Pedro, Matic, Batshuayi, Cahill, Chalobah
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, O'Shea, Lescott, Manquillo, Larsson, Cattermole, Rodwell, Oviedo, Januzaj, Borini
Subs: Mannone, Love, Gibson, Asoro, Maja, Embleton, Gooch
The Big Moments
Shock Early Lead - Chelsea 0-1 Sunderland - In the second minute David Luiz tripped up the advancing Adnan Januzaj, giving away a free kick 25 yards out from goal. Seb Larsson’s set piece cannoned off the wall and directly into Javier Manquillo’s path, who had been left totally unmarked in Chelsea’s penalty area. The Sunderland full back made no mistake, spiking his shot into the roof of the net. It's the English Premier League - nobody reads the script here.
Normal service resumes though - Chelsea 1-1 Sunderland - Four minutes later, Jack Rodwell went through Hazard to get the ball, conceding an almost identical free kick five yards off the right corner of Sunderland’s box. Marcos Alonso's left foot was preferred to Willian’s right, but his curling free kick struck the corner of the goalpost.
Chelsea kept possession of the the rebound though, and were given the time and space to pass the ball in and around the opposition box. Alonso made a second attempt - this time blocked - before Willian received the ball wide right, driving an angled shot low and hard and in off the goalkeeper’s arm for the equalizer.
Big Chance - Chelsea 1-1-Sunderland - Willian played a through ball to Moses on the right wing, whose low cross evaded the opposition defenders and keeper, but somehow also managed to miss a sliding Diego Costa. Eden Hazard, who had also overrun the cross, backtracked to retrieve the ball in the six yard area before a heavy touch allowed Larsson to clear the ball out of danger.
Captain, Leader, Legend - Chelsea 1-1 Sunderland - On minute 28 John Terry was subbed off for the last time at the Bridge as a Chelsea player, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd and a guard of honour from his team, before passing the captain’s armband to Gary Cahill.
Half Time - Chelsea 1-1 Sunderland - The game stayed tied till half time; Chelsea camped in Sunderland’s half but unable to break down the opposition to take the lead.
Deservedly Ahead - Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland - After Azpilicueta intercepted a Sunderland cross, the rebound fell to Willian. The Brazilian showed fantastic vision to make a raking cross-field pass up the pitch to Costa, who chested the ball down and passed left to Eden Hazard. Hazard carried the ball forward into the box, but there didn’t seem to be any danger until he shocked the stadium with a left-foot rocket from an acute angle, across the keeper, into the opposite corner.
Road Runner - Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland - Willian having shown the way, Fabregas played in another long ball from deep, seeking a speeding Pedro and causing absolute panic in the Sunderland defence. Lescott’s desperate header only cleared the ball over his own keeper, before Pedro raced in ahead of Pickford to head in at the near post.
Taking Advantage - Chelsea 4-1 Sunderland - A weak Pickford goal-kick was intercepted by Pedro, who again sped forward, drifting inside to thread a through ball between two defenders and onto Michy Batshuayi - whose perfectly timed run was capped by a sliding finish through Jordan Pickford’s legs.
Late Double - Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland - Fabregas received the ball in his own half, before making another long pass up to Batshuayi who was advancing on the right. Sunderland’s back line was in disarray at this point; their poor shape letting the young striker beat the offside trap, before dribbling past his full back and curling his second past Pickford and inside the far post.
Courtois - 8 - Could not stop Sunderland’s early goal, but was given little chance by either Manquillo or his own defenders, who might have done a better job of closing Manquillo down. Showed his quality though with two brilliant point blank saves later on. The second save came off an unmarked header that really should have seen Sunderland take the lead again.
Azpilicueta - 7 - Solid, professional performance again today from Azpilicueta. Calm in possession even under pressure, combining well with Moses and Luiz either side of him to cut out threats and drive the ball forward.
David Luiz - 7 - Conceded the early free kick that led to Sunderland’s goal, but otherwise had a typically solid game in centre back. Could do better at set pieces though - he might be replacing John Terry defensively, but hasn’t shown much sign this season of replacing his goals.
Terry - 6 (Cahill - 6) - Terry made a supreme effort to score a goal in his final game, but it wasn’t to be. Tried, but couldn't get to Manquillo on time to stop the goal. Cahill looked much calmer in possession defensively today, even under intense pressure from Sunderland. He might be benefiting from emerging from Terry’s shadow.
Moses - 7 - A lack of pressure from Sunderland saw Moses spend a lot of time in the opposition box, especially in the first half. Unfortunately, the finishing from the other advanced players didn’t always match the quality of his support play. He also defended well, making a great block off a Cattermole shot and numerous other tackles to keep Sunderland on one goal At one point in the second, threatened to turn Jack Rodwell completely inside out with his dribbling.
Kante - 7 - Worked hard to control midfield and was more mobile today than normal, sometimes appearing out of nowhere to make passes in wide areas. One thing that’s unique about Conte’s Chelsea, every outfield player seems comfortable in possession, and Kante appears to be getting better at dribbling and passing the ball up the pitch.
Fabregas - 8 - Fabregas bossed the midfield along with Kante today, and was the organizer for two of the last three goals. On Chelsea’s third, he might as well have lobbed a teargas canister into the area the amount of confusion it caused. Also worked hard off the ball to pressure Sunderland’s players and help regain possession.
Alonso - 7 - One of Chelsea’s best players in the first half, repeatedly getting into dangerous positions in advanced areas. He was shaky defensively in a few games this season but was generally solid today, no major complaints.
Willian - 8 - Scored the first and basically created the second, undoing all of Sunderland’s good defensive work to that point, with a perfect pass to put Costa and Hazard two on two for the goal. Hope he stays with the club, as he’s been quality the past few seasons.
Hazard - 8 (Pedro - 8) - Hazard showed again today exactly why he was a nominee for the premier league player of the season award. Although Willian’s early ball created the opportunity, Hazard looked to have dribbled himself out of contention before whipping it in to give Chelsea the lead. Sometimes it might feel like Hazard has another level he can go to, but Pedro, every game, leaves it all out there on the pitch. He is pure quality and one hundred percent effort, and that was typified by his goal and assist today - my pick for man of the match.
Diego Costa - 7 (Batshuayi - 8) - Diego showed good passing and movement to create space for wide forwards Hazard and Willian, including his assist and run for Hazard’s goal in the second half. On the other hand though, he was well marshalled by his centre backs today. Showed signs of “bad Diego” under strong physical pressure from John O’Shea, and was taken off on 62 minutes to avoid a second booking. Although marginally offside for his second today, it's now four goals in three consecutive Premiership games for super sub Michy Batshuayi. Even more impressive, the 23 year old striker only started one of those three games. Today he scored two in exactly thirty minutes. He’s got the hunger, he’s got the skills - look for more goals to come next season.
Pickford - 5
Jones - 5
O’Shea - 6
Lescott - 5
Manquillo - 7
Larsson - 6
Cattermole - 6 (Gibson - 5)
Rodwell - 5
Oviedo - 5
Januzaj - 6 (Gooch - 5)
Borini - 5