Sunday 4 December 2016

Mixed day for McClean in front of Trap

Published 15/01/2012 | 05:00

Giovanni Trapattoni went to Stamford Bridge to watch James McClean but he left with a reminder of Fernando Torres' powers. Torres may have lost his place in the Spanish side but he offered a glimpse that he is rediscovering his form yesterday.

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McClean made an impression, even if he didn't take two great opportunities to score. Those were among a number of missed chances that left Martin O'Neill frustrated. "It gnaws away that we didn't get something from the game," O'Neill said afterwards. "Scoring goals is pretty difficult but it's not that difficult. A blundering full-back could have stuck those in."

The chances he regretted came mainly in the second half when he also claimed, with some justification, that Sunderland could have had a penalty.

The problem, as O'Neill acknowledged, was that Chelsea had just had a claim for a penalty turned down at the other end. Shortly afterwards, Torres was booked for diving when he should have had a penalty but Andre Villas-Boas felt the game was another sign that the player is returning to strength.

O'Neill was pleased, too, with McClean. "I thought his second half was very good, he's still learning the game but overall he did well for us."

Trapattoni is not as hostile to new players as he initially indicated on Friday and McClean had an early chance to catch his eye. Stephane Sessegnon ran through the Chelsea defence and pulled a ball back across goal from the right. McClean was in the right place but, under some pressure from Jose Bosingwa, he didn't connect and the ball spun away.

With Ramires still playing further forward as Sturridge, who was on the bench, recovers from injury, Chelsea lacked some drive in midfield.

Frank Lampard was there, of course, and he made his usual contribution. Sunderland had enjoyed the first ten minutes but Chelsea inched forward. When Juan Mata crossed from the right, Torres' response wasn't that of a player without a league goal since September. He responded like the player he once was, hitting a spectacular scissors-kick.

But he had the luck of a player who hasn't scored since September. The ball clattered off the bar. Lampard was standing under it. He knew nothing about it, but the ball hit him and bounced into the net.

Gary Cahill was sitting in the stand, having completed a medical at Chelsea's training ground yesterday morning. Without him, Chelsea were still dependent on David Luiz. Trapattoni might have left with opinions on Torres and McClean but his view of Luiz would be the most entertaining.

The second half was more open as Sunderland pushed forward. "We couldn't find a second goal and left the game on the edge but there was a great spirit and solidarity," Villas-Boas said.

The series of penalty claims created more anxiety. Torres fell over John O'Shea's leg and, immediately, Sunderland also had a good claim when Ashley Cole charged into Nicklas Bendtner.

The game was open now with McClean delivering a series of fine crosses from the left. He was dangerous on the ball, except when in front of goal.

In the second half, he should have scored again. Seb Larsson was set free on the right, ran 20 yards and crossed to the left. McClean was stretching but he stubbed the ball with his left-foot and it went wide.

Michael Essien's return also cheered Chelsea. He came on for Lampard and immediately demonstrated his strength and power. The game wasn't over and Sunderland's afternoon of missed chances continued. Again Sessegnon ran right through the Chelsea defence, again he set up a team-mate and this time sub Craig Gardner pulled the ball wide. Worse was to come. Bendtner was put through on goal in injury-time but hit the ball wide when he only had to lob it over Petr Cech.

On the sideline, O'Neill bounced up and down in frustration. Seconds later, the final whistle went and Villas-Boas let out a roar of relief.

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