Chelsea beat Sunderland 1-0 in a close encounter at Stamford Bridge, with Frank Lampard scoring the only goal of the game.
Lampard’s first half goal, which came from a rebound off the bar from a Fernando Torres shot, was the game’s only goal; although both teams had penalty appeals turned down.
Sunderland got off to a good start with Richardson, Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson all creating chances that troubled the Chelsea defence.
Chelsea’s first real chance came in the 11th minute when Fernando Torres failed to direct his header from an Ashley Cole cross on target, but just two minutes later the Spaniard was central to the opening goal.
Juan Mata’s perfectly waited cross from the right touchline found Torres in acres of space at the back post and the former Liverpool striker’s brilliant overhead kick crashed against the bar, only for Frank Lampard to prod the ball in on the rebound from point blank range in the 13th minute.
Chelsea took the game by the scruff of the neck after the goal and allowed Sunderland no time on the ball as they suffocated the visitors in midfield, with Ramires harrying the opposition off the ball and Mata looking particularly dangerous on the ball; his 27th minute free kick was well saved by Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland’s best chance of the game came in the 35th minute when their most dangerous player, Stephane Sessegnon, played a ball inside the box to Bendtner whose low shot running away from goal trickled just inches wide of Cech’s post.
The first half ended on a bad note for Sunderland went Matt Kilgallon landed awkwardly on his ankle after contesting a high ball with Torres, and had to be replaced by Michael Turner.
Sunderland started the second half in a similar fashion to how they started the first, when Sessegnon’s powerful shot from inside the box was driven straight at Petr Cech.
Chelsea then created three chances in the next 10 minutes as Torres, Mata and Ramires all failed to get on the score sheet.
In the 58th minute, Chelsea had a penalty appeal turned down as Torres went to ground just inside Sunderland’s box but the ref waved play on, as did Mata, as Mignolet made a good save from his close range shot.
Sunderland’s penalty claim came in the same minute Chelsea’s, as Cole bundled into the back of Bendtner inside the home team’s box.
Sunderland’s best chance of the game to that point came in the 64th minute when Larsson ran down the right wing and cut the ball across the face of the goal only for James McClean to tap the ball wide.
Two minutes later, Chelsea had another penalty appeal denied as Torres went down in the box and was booked for diving; replays show contact between Bardsley and Torres, proving the referee’s decision to be the wrong one.
McClean had another chance to equalise moments later when he beat Chelsea’s offside trap, but his touch let him down and the Chelsea defence regrouped to clear the danger.
Chelsea nearly doubled their lead in the 86th minute when Raul Meireles tried to chip Mignolet from outside the box but the ‘keeper tipped the ball over for a corner.
There was an exciting finish to the game as another great cross from McClean was flapped at by Cech but Gardener’s weak attempt at the back post was eventually picked up by the Chelsea ‘keeper.
Chelsea had another chance to secure the win in the 88th minute, when Ramires pulled the ball back from the touchline to Meireles, only for the midfielder to skew his shot over the bar.
Sunderland had two golden opportunities to equalise in the closing moments of the game, when Sessegnon cut inside from the right wing to place a low cross on a plate for Craig Gardener, but the midfielder’s shot was extremely poor from 12 yards and the ball rolled wide of the target.
The visitors final chance came in the last minute of stoppage time when Nicklas Bendtner was played in by Connor Wickham, but the Dane’s shot was off target as Cech closed him down.
Sunderland can count themselves unlucky to come away from this game with no points but Martin O’Neill’s team still lack a cutting edge up front, as Chelsea’s defence stood strong in the face of the threat posed by Bendtner.
Chelsea can build from this win to try and gain momentum if they are to take any part in the title race, or at least catch Tottenham in 3rd place.