Another Fernando Torres brace set Chelsea well on their well to victory in Sunderland, to end the Blues’ league rot of eight matches without a victory.
A lightning fast start by Chelsea was rewarded with a goal by Fernando Torres, who, buoyed by his early finish, was eager enough to convince David Luiz that he should be given the duty of doubling the visitors’ lead from the spot.
Juan Mata made it a convincing scoreline after a fantastic strike by Torres, before Adam Johnson’s bizarre goal 24 minutes from time proved a consolation for the Black Cats.
For both sides, the season had yet to really kick-start. Sunderland have had a opprobrious campaign thus far, and this loss means they slip into the relegation places.
As for the Blues, slipping out of Europe’s premier competition will have been a big reality check, but Rafael Benitez’s men responded as soon as the whistle blew to start the game.
Fast off the blocks to catch Sunderland out, Juan Mata’s pass found Eden Hazard, but Mignolet atoned for his colleague’s lapses in concentration, blocking the Belgian’s shot.
The duo then combined again, with Hazard finding Mata this time, but the Spaniard failed in his attempt too.
The Belgian was surprisingly picked ahead of Oscar, with some thinking the French Player of the Year 2012 would need a rest, but he showed his manager his worth with neat early exchanges.
And it was the 21 year old who assisted Fernando Torres’ opener. With too much space on the left, Hazard could float in a cross to the 28 year old, who timed his run perfectly, to strike home.
Chelsea have won all eight games this season in competitive matches when Fernando Torres has scored a goal. It was three in three days for the rejuvenated forward, with the Rafa Benitez effect no doubt highlighted as the turning point.
It was not long before the Oscar did come on, however, with Oriol Romeu going off just after the quarter of an hour mark. An injury to the knee has cost him a flight to Japan to test himself in the FIFA Club World Cup, Benitez later confirmed. With Lampard still not fully recovered, it was up to the attacking midfielder to mould his role into a more defensive-minded one to help out the Chelsea back-line.
But the mismatch of player and position was evident. With Ramires the only real anchorman, Chelsea had Cech to thank, as he denied a well-taken Sessegnon hit, and later, a long-range Gardner attempt.
The half was beginning to fizz out, but the telling goal was to come with seconds to go before half-time.
Ramires was running out of grass, but Larsson’s rash challenge was justified with a penalty kick.
Having scored mid-week, David Luiz felt he had authority to take the spot-kick once again, but Fernando Torres snatched the ball off the Brazilian. It was confidence rarely seen from the Spaniard during his time at Chelsea, and he made no mistake from the spot, perfectly executed to Mignolet’s left.
The Euro 2012 Golden Boot holder has scored nine and provided three assists so fat this season, and hope is there that the form is returning.
And the Spaniard was flying out from the second half. Just four minutes after the restart, a neat turn and hit cannoned off the crossbar, with Juan Mata tapping home the rebound, with the crossbar still shaking.
It was a strike worthy of a hat-trick goal, but as for Juan Mata, it was his ninth goal this season. The Spaniard only scored 12 in the entirety of the last campaign, and the formidable compatriots could link up very nicely as we near the second half of the season.
Adam Johnson’s cross-cum-shot on the 66th minute found its way into the top corner, but Chelsea motionless, clearly expecting the ball to travel wide.
A late Sunderland rally was on the cards. Johnson again tested Cech, but this time the goalkeeper prevailed, beating away a fine free-kick which was destined for the top corner.
The experience of Frank Lampard was required to shore up the game with 78 minutes on the clock, and to prevent any late nerves before Chelsea flew off to Japan to upgrade their “European kings” status to “world champions”.
The free-flowing beauty seen at the start of the game was met with rash bookings as the game wore on, with Mikel and Mata both entering Mark Halsey’s book.
The diminutive Spaniard’s involvement in the game was highlighted by the fact he conceded six fouls in the game, when he had never conceded more than two in a Premier League game before. His rise in the Chelsea squad hierarchy cannot be underestimated, already becoming an authoritative character.
Craig Gardner nearly halved the deficit, were it not for Petr Cech, who did fantastically well to tip his free-kick onto the bar.
But it was Chelsea who go away with all three points, cutting the deficit at the top to seven points, ahead of tomorrow’s crunch Manchester derby.