A CLEAN sheet, Chelsea's first in the Premier League in six weeks and seven matches, but there was plenty for Gary Cahill to savour as he watched his new team defend.
The England centre-half, who passed a medical before the game and will complete the formalities of his £7m move from Bolton Wanderers today, has not come to Stamford Bridge to sit on the bench and, on this evidence, he will not do so for long.
Cahill's own form in Bolton's porous defence has been patchy this season, but he has dovetailed well with John Terry in England colours.
The England captain's long-term future must be in doubt given his age (31) and injuries, but in the immediate future it is clear which Chelsea defender will make way.
Manager Andre Villas-Boas claimed last week that David Luiz will be "one of the greatest central defenders in the world" but he has not reached that status yet. Luiz's ability on the ball was in evidence again against Sunderland, but he rarely managed to anticipate where Nicklas Bendtner was going to run and was not so quick that he was able to rectify the errors.
Had Bendtner's finishing matched his self-belief, this would have been another disappointing afternoon for Chelsea, who just about withstood a spirited rally from Sunderland.
Instead, Villas-Boas was able to enjoy a third win in three matches which, added to Cahill's arrival, the return to fitness of Michael Essien, and further evidence of a revival for Fernando Torres, made it an ultimately satisfying day for him.
Frank Lampard's enduring ability to be in the right place at the right time settled the match as he turned the ball into the net after Torres' athletic scissors kick had crashed back off the crossbar.
It was Lampard's third goal in as many games and Torres, who last scored in mid-October, allowed himself a wry smile. That in itself reflected his returning confidence.
"He's improving in form and confidence and is creating danger," said Villas-Boas. "The goals will come."
Martin O'Neill also had goalscoring on his mind. Seb Larsson is Sunderland's leading scorer in the league with five goals and the array of missed chances left the manager very frustrated. He surely will be strengthening his squad before the transfer window closes. (© Independent News Service)