Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea: Poor defense undermines stunning Hazard performance

Rueters

Rueters

Eden Hazard turned in a world-class performance today for manager Jose Mourinho.  Sunderland were overwhelmed by the Belgian as the Black Cats fell to Chelsea 3-4.

Coming off of consecutive victories, Sunderland were full of fight and ambition.  They were a worthy match for Chelsea in many moments during the game.  However, Chelsea’s class and quality shown too bright in the Stadium of Light.

Gus Poyet’s side opened the score-line via Jozy Altidore.  It was the first goal for the American in a Sunderland kit and a real spark for his side.  The goal came as the result of a set piece in which Altidore found himself with the ball and his back turned to goal and only six yards away.  He cleverly turned and fired a powerful shot into the back of the net.

Frank Lampard brought Chelsea back level with a nice headed finish.  The match player of the game, Eden Hazard, provided a cross which the Chelsea captain rose up and smashed  home.  Hazard followed up his assist with his first goal of the match, in which he drove in from the left wing to curl a shot into the lower far post.

John O’Shea brought his side even again after sloppy Chelsea defense allowed him a free shot on goal following a scrambled Sunderland corner.  But it wasn’t long until Hazard scored again.  Eden’s second goal was followed by a Phil Bardsley own goal.  Bardsley found some retribution as he was able to make up for his error by putting the ball in to the net on the correct end and bringing the final score to an exciting seven goal total.

Chelsea were far superior on the ball.  Eden Hazard and Juan Mata were pulling strings all over the pitch, repeatedly exposing space in front of the Sunderland goal.  Chelsea’s offensive core is so talented that honestly, there is no worry for Mourinho about goal scoring.  They may have cold streaks and go without for a few matches, but Chelsea boasts some of the most technically gifted and clinical players in the league, and they have a lot of them.

However, their defensive lapses and incapability to defend set pieces made many matches much closer than necessary this year, and it happened against Sunderland here again.  All season, the Blues have been let down by their central defense.  John Terry is too old to take on Premier League strikers and lacks the quickness to react in high speed situations.  Gary Cahill is a solid performer.  However, he is not a leader and needs direction to be most effective.  David Luiz has been left out of Mourinho’s “first team” this season… and rightly so.  Of all of Chelsea’s defenders, he is the least reliable at the back.

Of all of Chelsea’s defenders, the most effective have been Ivanovic, Cole and Azpilicueta.  Ivanovic is a top defender and has proven his worth in central defense in the past.  If Mourinho has warmed up to the play of Azpilicueta so much, perhaps it is time to play him in his natural position on the right, give Cole his deserved spot back, and give Ivanovic a spot in central defense.

Regardless of whether it is a new partnership in central defense, or perhaps a January transfer for a new defender, Chelsea will need to sort out their defensive woes if they want to raise the league trophy this season.