Lampard goal enough to beat Sunderland

Chelsea 1 Sunderland 0

Frank Lampard’s third goal in as many matches – and his 11th of the season – was enough to maintain Chelsea’s 100% record in 2012.

But Sunderland should have taken at least a point, with James McClean, Craig Gardner and Nicklas Bendtner all missing golden chances to score in the second half.

The all-important 13th-minute winner came when Fernando Torres’ volley from Juan Mata’s cross hit the bar and the ball ricocheted off Lampard and into the net.

Mata played a key role in Chelsea’s first-half winner.

It was a slice of good fortune for the home side but tough on Torres, who played well but has now gone more than 14 hours of football without scoring for club or country.

The Spaniard also went close with a first-half shot that flashed inches wide, as did Bendtner, who almost equalised after being found by Stephane Sessegnon.

And Bendtner felt hard done by again early in the second half when he appealed in vain for a penalty after appearing to have been bundled over in the box by Ashley Cole.

Chelsea had another lucky escape when McClean contrived to miss an easy opportunity to level.

Seb Larsson was released down the right by Sessegnon and pulled the ball back for an unmarked McClean, who scuffed his shot wide.

Gardner then also missed the target after being set up by the excellent Sessegnon, before Bendtner left Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill with his head in his hands after shooting wide in stoppage time.

It underlined the fact that England defender Gary Cahill, who watched from the stands ahead of his imminent move from Bolton, will be a timely signing for a side that has looked vulnerable at the back.

Chelsea will also be boosted by the return of all-action midfielder Michael Essien, who was given a hero’s reception when brought on as a 73rd-minute substitute.

Essien’s long-awaited comeback from a knee injury may prove to be hugely significant and is another sign that after a troubled few months – and another unimpressive display –  the Blues could finally be heading in the right direction.

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