Sunderland 1 Chelsea 2
Daniel Sturridge showed Fernando Torres how it’s done by capping an impressive Chelsea victory with an outrageously cool finish.
After John Terry had steered home in the 19th minute, Sturridge’s goal early in the second half justified the striker’s inclusion by boss Andre Villas-Boas, who left Torres out.
Ji Dong-Won netted a late consolation for the home team, meaning the final scoreline flattered a Sunderland side that were completely outclassed.
Sturridge is convinced he can establish himself in the Blues first team, and that confidence was evident when he used his pace to get away from Wes Brown before delightfully flicking the ball past onrushing keeper Simon Mignolet with his heel.
Available for the first time this season having served a suspension, Sturridge was put straight into the starting line-up with Torres dropping to the bench.
It was Sturridge’s reward for a sparkling pre-season and his obvious determination to make a name for himself at Stamford Bridge.
Even before this match the youngster had done much to impress Villas-Boas, who it seems has lost patience with Torres after the Spaniard’s goalless start to the campaign.
Sturridge’s inclusion was one of five changes Villas-Boas made in the wake of an unconvincing home win against Norwich last time out.
Nicolas Anelka was also included and goalkeeper Petr Cech made a welcome return from a knee injury, while recent signing Juan Mata was handed his first start and deadline-day capture Raul Meireles made his debut.
Sunderland gave a debut to Nicklas Bendtner following his move from Arsenal – and the Danish forward should have marked his arrival on Wearside with an early goal.
Bendtner was found unmarked by Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick but failed to properly connect with his header, which drifted harmlessly wide.
And Steve Bruce’s men paid the price for that miss when Chelsea went ahead.
The outstanding Mata scored against Norwich and was denied another goal when his brilliant 20-yard free-kick bounced off the post.
It was a let-off for the Black Cats but they were unable to clear the resulting loose ball and after good work by Sturridge, Terry’s side-footed effort was helped into the net by Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley but was going in anyway.
Chelsea totally controlled the rest of the first half, yet Sunderland missed a good opportunity to level just before the break when they again failed to make the most of a free header.
This time the culprit was Larsson, who misjudged Kieran Richardson’s cross, with the ball hitting the Swede’s shoulder and going wide of the near post.
Sturridge, on the other hand, showed world-class composure to double Chelsea’s lead and register his 10th goal for the club.
Torres has now managed only one goal in 22 appearances since his £50m move from Liverpool and rarely looked like finding the net after coming on for Mata with 16 minutes remaining.
And Sunderland rarely looked like scoring before pulling a goal back in injury time, when Larsson crossed for Korean forward Ji to score his first goal in English football.
That denied Cech his 159th clean sheet for the Blues but it came too late to seriously worry Chelsea, whose performance was by far their best since Villas-Boas’ appointment.