Anelka puts icing on the cake for Chelsea
Chelsea might have been able to glide by without the attacking prowess of Fernando Torres on this occasion, but this was a performance that demonstrated just how much more badly the Premier League champions need David Luiz to shore up their defences.
While £50m Torres was training back in London, Luiz was flying into England from Portugal following his £25m move from Benfica, and clearly the sooner Chelsea can integrate the defender into the back four the better for their chances of catching pacesetters Manchester United.
Goals from Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka showed that Chelsea have still got what it takes as an attacking force, but the manner in which the visitors conceded goals underlines just how important the signing of Luiz could be to their hopes of retaining their Premier League crown.
It took just over three minutes for the smiles on the faces of travelling Chelsea supporters -- put on by the signing of Torres -- to vanish as the visiting defence disintegrated and the tone was set for a humdinger of a first half.
Phil Bardsley picked up possession on the halfway line and drove forward unchallenged into empty space.
As the Chelsea defence retreated, Bardsley tried his luck from 20 yards and thanks to Branislav Ivanovic obligingly moving out of the way of his swerving shot, Petr Cech was left defenceless. This was the sort of defending that has been anathema to Chelsea in recent years.
When Asamoah Gyan tried an ambitious overhead kick Chelsea looked there for the taking, but then Sunderland winger Ahmed Elmohamady gave his opponents a helping hand. The over-exuberant Egyptian jumped all over marauding Ashley Cole following Michael Essien's ball into Sunderland's area and referee Mark Halsey had little hesitation in awarding a penalty that Lampard swept past Craig Gordon in the 15th minute.
Defensive frailties were clearly proving contagious because the Sunderland back four opened up in the 23rd minute. After the ball ricocheted kindly to Nicolas Anelka, he sent Kalou scampering between centre-halves Titus Bramble and Anton Ferdinand before rolling the ball beneath Gordon.
However, more kamikaze, comical defending allowed Richardson to draw Sunderland level. After Elmohamady skipped past Terry he was fouled by John Obi Mikel 22 yards from goal and Richardson stepped up to knock the ball under the leaping Chelsea wall and beyond the motionless Cech in the 26th minute of a breathless contest.
The second half began as frenetically as the first had finished, with Chelsea regaining the initiative. They were running rings around Sunderland and it was no surprise when the Premier League champions regained the advantage on the hour. Didier Drogba's corner was cleared to Lampard whose 20-yarder was beaten away to Terry, who knocked the loose ball in from 10 yards.
Sunderland, for whom debutant Stephane Sessegnon excelled, ran out of steam in this increasingly one-sided contest and Anelka wrapped up a comprehensive victory in stoppage-time when substitute Florent Malouda darted to the byline before setting up his French compatriot.
Chelsea will go into this weekend's game with Liverpool in good heart, but their defensive inadequacies will fill Kenny Dalglish's team with optimism -- even if Torres gets a game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)