Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3: Smiling Torres at the double as Benitez wins first league game
17:04 GMT, 8 December 2012
Fernando Torres handed Rafael Benitez a first Barclays Premier League victory as Chelsea manager as he ended his personal drought in style at Sunderland.
The Spaniard capped a powerful start for the Blues by firing them into an 11th-minute lead – scoring his first league goal since October 6 – and he made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time by converting a penalty awarded for Sebastian Larsson's trip on Ramires.
Only the woodwork prevented him from completing a hat-trick inside 49 minutes, but Juan Mata rifled in the loose ball to end the game as a contest.
Smiling: Fernando Torres' delight was evident as he struck for the first time in the top flight since October
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley (Colback 66), Cuellar, O'Shea, Rose, Johnson, Gardner, Larsson (Saha 81), McClean, Sessegnon, Wickham.
Subs not used: Westwood, Campbell, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Bramble.
Goal: Johnson 66.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Romeu (Oscar 20), Mata, Moses (Bertrand 61), Hazard (Lampard 79), Torres.
Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Azpilicueta.
Booked: Ivanovic, Ramires, Mata.
Goals: Torres 11, 45, Mata 49.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
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Sunderland responded and England
international Adam Johnson embarrassed keeper Petr Cech with a
66th-minute shot he really should have repelled, with Craig Gardner
hitting the bar at the death.
However, as a crowd of 39,273 left the
Stadium of Light, it was those heading south who were wearing the
smiles, leaving those closer to home to contemplate a run which now
extends to just two Premier League victories in 23 attempts.
Chelsea will now turn their attention
to Japan and the FIFA Club World Cup, while Black Cats boss Martin
O'Neill will attempt to take the positives from another difficult
afternoon as he attempts to quell a growing tide of pessimism on
In truth, the visitors could have had
the game won inside the opening 11 minutes as they hit Sunderland with a
whirlwind to spark mass panic.
Referee Mark Halsey proved a central
character and had he seen what television replays later revealed, he
might have endeared himself even less to the locals.
There were just two minutes on the
clock when Eden Hazard ran on to Mata's stunning pass but just as he
prepared to shoot, he had his arm tugged by the covering Larsson.
It was enough to throw the striker off
balance and keeper Simon Mignolet took advantage to smother the ball
with Halsey allowing play to continue and sparing Larsson an inevitable
red card, much to the annoyance of the Belgian.
Hazard returned the favour two minutes
later to allow Mata to fire across the six-yard box, where Torres only
just failed to connect, and Mignolet had to be at his best to deny the
Spain international with six minutes gone when skipper John O'Shea
headed a clearance straight at team-mate Carlos Cuellar and saw the ball
ricochet straight to the striker.
Emphatic: Torres sees his early volley fly in
How's that Torres fizzes in the first goal
But having ridden their luck during
the early stages, the Black Cats finally succumbed with 11 minutes
played when, after Cuellar had rashly attempted to nick the ball ahead
of Torres on the halfway line and failed, the visitors broke at pace.
Victor Moses raced away before picking
out Hazard wide on the left, and when he crossed to the near post,
Torres arrived right on cue to turn it into the net.
Defender David Luiz sent a long-range
16th-minute free-kick just over the bar, but as Chelsea relaxed,
Sunderland re-grouped and started to force their way back into the game.
Cuellar saw a 23rd-minute shot blocked
after the Blues had failed to deal properly with Larsson's corner, and
Cech was called upon for the first time five minutes later to beat away
Stephane Sessegnon's well-struck effort after Connor Wickham, deputising
for the injured Steven Fletcher, had held off Luiz to flick on.
Spot on: Torres fires home a penalty to double Chelsea's lead
Thump: Seb Larsson brings down Ramires clumsily to concede the penalty
With Gardner and Johnson starting to
make an impression, the Blues were forced on to the back foot at times
and although they tried to hit their hosts on the counter, O'Neill's men
were starting to dominate.
However, disaster struck deep into
injury time when Sweden international Larsson decided not to shepherd
Brazilian into touch, instead needlessly going to ground and taking the
Chelsea man with him.
Halsey pointed straight to the spot, guaranteeing himself a chorus of boos at the break, and Torres obliged from 12 yards.
Three and easy: Juan Mata follows up a Torres effort which hit the bar to bag the third
Off form: Adam Johnson scored but otherwise had a quiet day
Any hopes of a fightback were dashed
within four minutes of the restart when Phil Bardsley miscontrolled a
cross and the ball ran to Torres, who was denied a hat-trick by the
Sadly for Sunderland, the rebound
dropped invitingly for Mata to make it 3-0 and wrap up the victory with
41 minutes still to play.
It could have been four three minutes
later when Mata rolled the ball into the path of Moses, who drilled a
right-foot effort wide of the far post.
Pressure: Martin O'Neill is enduring a tough time at Sunderland this season
Party time: Chelsea players celebrate as they secured what proved to be a comfortable win
Chelsea eased into cruise control with
the points in the bag, although Johnson gave Sunderland hope with a
rasping 66th-minute strike which keeper Cech appeared to leave, only to
see it scream inside the far post.
Cech was much more accomplished in
dealing with Johnson's goal-bound free-kick 10 minutes later and had to
dive full-length to turn away Wickham's injury-time effort, but he
needed the help off the crossbar to keep out Gardner's free-kick at the
Back in business: Rafael Benitez enjoyed his first win in the top flight as Chelsea boss
Happy times: Victor Moses celebrates with Torres who played with more conviction than of late
Fire in his belly: Torres contesting for the rights to take the spot kick with defender Luiz – who scored one in midweek