Brave, committed and disciplined are three of the words that describe Sunderland's performance to become only the third team this season to take points away from the run-away league leaders Chelsea.
The same three words can also be used to describe the role of Lee Cattermole in giving what was surely one of the finest performances he has ever had in a Sunderland shirt, making many important blocks and being the central figure in keeping Sunderland's shape and dynamics in check throughout the match.
The first quarter of an hour saw a large amount of possession from Chelsea, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Two counter attacks from Sunderland reminded the Londoners of Sunderland's strengths, but the first real chance was from Willian, hitting the post from a long shot on the sixteenth minute. Long shots would become the feature of Chelsea's forward pressure as Sunderland were able to contain the movement from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, most importantly perhaps in the twenty-first minute when John O'Shea was able to make a clean last-ditch tackle to stop a break through on goal from Costa. A battle which would continue throughout the match, including an incident which will surely lead to a retrospective ban with the striker blatantly kicking out at O'Shea.
Sunderland became slightly rattled following a decision from referee Kevin Friend not to award Steven Fletcher a free kick, leading to assistant coach Mauricio Taricco being sent to the stands for a prolonged argument. The players, however, held their nerve and were able to provide Santiago Vergini the best chance of the match, the Argentine only managing to hit the crossbar following a cross from Adam Johnson.
The second half started in much the same way, with Sunderland again looking disciplined in a deep defensive system but able to break forward. There were signs that Chelsea were looking rather frustrated, Diego Costa in particular being booked for an elbow on Wes Brown. Chances for Sunderland in the first twenty minutes of the second half were few, however, the only real moment coming when a cross from Connor Wickham, looking bright and pacy on the left wing, met the head of Adam Johnson, who could only hit the Chelsea defence.
Wickham provided the outlet in attack for much of the game, but failed to link with Fletcher who once again looked too isolated in the lone role. Cheers and chants for Jozy Altidore surrounded the stadium when he replaced the Scot on the sixty-first minute, and he immediately made a mark on the game, looking busy and getting into key areas, almost scoring following a physical break into the box on the eighty-first minute. Two minutes later a block from an Altidore shot fell to the feet of Adam Johnson, who perhaps should have done better than to have shot wide of the post.
Chelsea remained dominant in possession until the final whistle, but in truth never looked like seriously troubling Costel Pantilimon's goal. Sunderland have now given performances to help erase the 8-0 humiliation at Southampton, and the team spirit and work rate in such games like this is certainly reassuring for the rest of the campaign.