Another uncomfortable evening at his local restaurant awaits for Fernando Torres, after the out-of-sorts Spaniard was perhaps given a glimpse of Chelsea's future that will have made for less than pleasant viewing.
Torres, now with one goal in 22 appearances for the club, was dropped to the substitutes' bench, and the decision by Andre Villas-Boas to discard the club's £50m record signing was fully vindicated, as Daniel Sturridge scored a sublime goal.
His strike, added to John Terry's opener, gave the visitors their seventh consecutive victory at the Stadium of Light against a Sunderland team who remain without a victory this season and who have lost eight of their last nine games at home.
"Someone asked me if it was a brave decision to go with Fernando on the bench," Villas-Boas said. "I don't feel brave, no. This situation is nothing to do with that." The Chelsea manager claimed he opted to go with Nicolas Anelka due to the French forward's under-employment during the international break -- though Torres was hardly rushed off his feet with Spain.
"We have four wonderful strikers and they all compete for the forward positions. They all offer a different threat and today the choice fell to Anelka. There's nothing special about that," Villas-Boas added.
Torres has admitted to hearing whispers from fellow diners discussing his problems in front of goal since his move from Liverpool at the start of the year. Given his demotion, he can expect rather more small talk at his expense on the menu this week.
He at least made it on for the final 15 minutes, but by then the visitors were simply going through the motions, conserving valuable energy for tougher tests to come as they comfortably stretched their unbeaten start to the season.
If anyone can match Torres for their troubles at present, it's Steve Bruce. If he thought the sudden departure of Asamoah Gyan, despatched on a season's loan to cash-rich Al Ain of the UAE, was the low point of his day -- the move coming just 24 hours after the Sunderland manager insisted his record signing was staying put -- then it plumbed new depths in the ensuing 90 minutes of this utterly one-sided encounter.
Substitute Ji Dong-won swept home an injury-time consolation from Seb Larsson's cross, but a second goal of the season from his side was scant consolation for Bruce. "For a player to leave the Premier League to go over there? No disrespect to the UAE, but I'll leave you to make your own conclusions about his motives," he said. "I can't see him coming back."
Chelsea rarely looked back once captain Terry had been afforded two bites at the cherry from a narrow angle to break the deadlock after 18 minutes.
Sunderland collectively froze when a Juan Mata free-kick came off the post and Sturridge picked out his unmarked skipper in the penalty area.
Anelka came close to doubling the advantage when his shot grazed the bar before the interval. Sunderland bookended the first half with their two clearest openings, debutant forward Nicklas Bendtner heading wastefully wide from another inviting Larsson free-kick. Returning goalkeeper Petr Cech did well to beat out a shot from Stephane Sessegnon, but they were rare forays from the hosts.
Sturridge sealed victory shortly after the interval, outsmarting Wes Brown to meet a pass from Anelka, before cheekily back-heeling the ball past advancing goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Asked what Torres must do to force his way back into the side, the reply from Villas-Boas was succinct. "Nothing special," he insisted. Given Sturridge's special moment here, the Spaniard will have do more than that.
Sunday Indo Sport