Chelsea have made a habit of conceding late goals that change the game in recent years, an unfortunate pattern that we see repeated twice tonight against Sunderland. After 88 minutes of generally solid play by the visiting side, former Chelsea player Fabio Borini managed to force 30 more minutes with a well taken goal. Ki Sung-Yeong did Borini one better, scoring a Sunderland winner with just two minutes left in extra time.
While those two goals will dominate the headlines, the game itself probably wasn't worthy of all the talk that the result is sure to produce. Hardly anyone turned up to watch the tie at all, and the few that did got to witness one of the more boring first 45 minutes in recent memory.
A flat, uneventful first half leaves me struggling to find the words to describe it. Neither side came particularly close to creating anything, though for entirely different reasons. Chelsea seemed content to take shot after shot from distance, rarely troubling the keeper at all as they sent ball after ball into the stands. The few times the Blues managed to get a shot on frame, they'd manage to fire it straight at the keeper.
Luckily for Jose Mourinho's side, Sinderland looked considerably worse. They rarely managed to string even three passes together, and a very weak shout for a handball was about the only time they came close to opening the scoring.
The second 45 was far more entertaining, and we had a goal almost as soon as the game restarted. Kevin De Bruyne showed a bit of what we all want to see from him, releasing Cesar Azpilicueta with a perfectly weighted ball. The Spaniard proceeded to deliver a dangerous low cross into the box, an unusual event from the Chelsea right flank. Frank Lampard was there to slot it home, but an attempt to thwart the chance meant the ball was bundled into the net by Lee Cattermole instead.
At 1-0 for the away side, the game immediately opened up. Samuel Eto'o quickly wasted an excellent chance to double the lead, and then saw a second decent chance get blocked. De Bruyne made the Sunderland keeper work, while Frank Lampard saw several shots from range go wide of the mark.
Midway through the second 45, Cesar Azpilicueta went down with a knee injury. He was forced to come off, and with Branislav Ivanovic suspended, Michael Essien took his place at right back. Demba Ba came on for Eto'o minutes later, with Andre Schurrle making way for Eden Hazard as the game was winding down.
Things still looked good before Borini struck, though Mark Schwarzer was called into action on several occasions as the game wore on. He made several fantastic stops, including the Jozy Altidore shot which eventually dropped to the feet of the former Chelsea man.
As extra time got underway, Chelsea continued to look the better side. Both Willian and De Bruyne put dangerous crosses into the box, though some good defending didn't allow Ba to get on the end of any of them. The first 15 minutes were mostly Chelsea controlled, though Fabio Borini had one excellent chance to put the home side in front.
The teams switched ends, and Sunderland took over almost immediately. Chelsea struggled to retain the ball, and the home side were beginning to look the most likely winner. It took until the final minutes before Ki put the nail in the coffin, but Gus Poyet will surely feel that the result was coming based on the way his side finished the game.
In the end, Chelsea's players have no one but themselves to blame for this one. Loads of chances were there, and the Blues just didn't finish them. Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne both passed on chances to set Frank Lampard free on goal, both settling for shots from 25 yards instead of leaving the midfielder a tap in. Samuel Eto'o had several excellent looks at the goal, but didn't manage to test the keeper with any of them. Even our corners were being delivered into dangerous areas today, but no Chelsea players were able to do anything with them.
Chelsea will now turn their focus to the league leaders, with a trip to The Emirates looming on Monday. Cesar Azpilicueta's injury is worrisome, though having both Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole available should somewhat lessen the need to play him. Michael Essien won't be available either, as he picked up his fifth domestic yellow of the season in extra time. The bulk of our starters got some rest today though, so we shouldn't be looking too fatigued come Monday. At least there's that, right?
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