Chelsea maintained their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a comfortable 2-1 win at Sunderland.
Goals from John Terry and Daniel Sturridge secured a routine win at the Stadium of Light and helped Chelsea keep up the pressure on the two Manchester clubs with their third win in four matches.
Sunderland grabbed a stoppage-time consolation through South Korean Ji Dong-Won, but never really looked like adding to their two points so far this season.
Sturridge’s goal, which came via a sensational second-half back-heel, justified Andre Villas-Boas’ decision to start with the England Under-21 international ahead of Fernando Torres, who was dropped to the bench.
Villas-Boas will also have been delighted with the performances of Juan Mata and Raul Meireles, both of whom arrived at Stamford Bridge last month.
Mata was a constant threat on Chelsea’s left-hand side, while Portugal international Meireles provided constant protection to the visitors’ back four.
Perhaps the biggest event of the day from a Sunderland perspective occurred prior to kick-off, with striker Asamoah Gyan completing a surprise season-long loan to United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain.
Gyan was linked with a move to Turkey and France in the closing stages of the European transfer window, but headed to the Middle East after an agreement was struck on Friday evening.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce said: “Anyone who has seen Asamoah play will know he hasn’t been himself in recent months. This option suits all parties at the present time.”
In Gyan’s absence, Nicklas Bendtner made his Sunderland debut after joining on loan from Arsenal. The Dane scored two goals on international duty in the week, and should have opened his Black Cats account in the 12th minute.
Seb Larsson delivered a teasing free-kick from the right, but after stealing a yard on the Chelsea back four, Bendtner glanced an eight-yard header wide of the target.
The miss proved costly, as Chelsea opened the scoring themselves six minutes later. Mata’s free-kick hit the outside of the post, but after Jose Bosingwa kept the ball in play, Ramires crossed for Terry at the back post.
The defender’s first shot was blocked, but he found the back of the net with the second via a deflection off Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley.
With Chelsea dominating possession for the majority of the first half, Nicolas Anelka and Ramires both shot over the crossbar from decent positions.
Simon Mignolet was also forced to make an excellent save to deny Anelka after Ramires’ blocked shot fell kindly for the Frenchman in the area.
Petr Cech was finally called into action to save a low strike from Stephane Sessegnon, but Chelsea deservedly doubled their lead within six minutes of the restart.
Meireles released Sturridge through the middle, and the striker fashioned an impudent chip that beat Mignolet and a back-tracking Wes Brown via the inside of the post.
Villas-Boas introduced Torres from the bench with 16 minutes left, but Sunderland claimed a 90th-minute consolation when Ji swept home at the back post after Bendtner flicked on Seb Larsson’s cross.
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