Chelsea’s players quickly shrugged off the ghost of Jose Mourinho as they picked up a first league victory in almost a month. The atmosphere was tense around the ground just two days after the Special One was sacked for a second time. The fans made their unhappiness with the players known, and even goals from Branislav Ivanovic, Pedro and Oscar did little to win them back over.
Steve Holland named pretty much the same side that Mourinho did in his final game, the only difference being that Eden Hazard was missing through injury. Pedro came in to replace him, while the other midfield change saw Cesc Fabregas come in for Ramires. Before the game, nearly every player was booed by fans as their name was read out. Hazard, Fabregas and Diego Costa received the worst of the abuse.
The news that Guus Hiddink was confirmed as manager until the end of the season received little fanfare or response. The Blues fans came to the Bridge looking to vent their frustrations, having seen their greatest ever manager dismissed again. The last thing they wanted to see was a Chelsea side who suddenly improved from the shambles we’ve seen this season.
So, there were more than a few fans who were angry when Ivanovic opened the scoring after just five minutes. One of the major underperformers, back and scoring for the first time since February. The team showed intensity from the start, which does make it look like they had given up in the last few weeks.
Those suspicions grew minutes later, as Pedro scored for the first time since August to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. He picked up a loose ball and fired home, finally making the kind of impact that he threatened to do on his debut. The Spaniard should have made himself an important part of the team in the past few months, now he’s making up for lost time.
While Chelsea fans had a rare lead to enjoy, that didn’t distract them from backing their former manager. The supporters were singing his name throughout, with almost every banner in sight in support of Mourinho. While the sacking seemed to be getting something out of the team, the fans clearly weren’t happy with it.
Costel Pantilimon took down Willian in the second half, and that allowed Oscar to score from the penalty spot. That was his first goal or assist in the league since the opening day. He managed to get away without too much stick from the crowd, but he’s far from innocent here. It’s hard to think of a player who has gone missing more often during the Mourinho years.
Fabio Borini pulled one back for Sunderland, but the Blues held on to take all three points. While it was a much needed win, it didn’t put the smile back on Chelsea fans’ faces.
LCN Man of the Match: Oscar