Bardsley backing Sunderland to maintain their European charge

Unlikely goal hero Phil Bardsley is backing Sunderland to maintain their charge for Europe in the most unpredictable of seasons. Sunderland's hopes of completing a famous Premier League double over reigning champions Chelsea on Tuesday night were dashed despite the 25-year-old full-back's stunning fourth-minute opener.

Carlo Ancelotti's men hit back in devastating style to run out 4-2 winners at the Stadium of Light and avenge their 3-0 home defeat in November, a result which confirmed the Wearsiders as genuine contenders for a top-six finish.

Even after Tuesday's reverse, they remain firmly in the hunt, and while Bardsley admits the capacity of football to constantly surprise and shock means anything could happen between now and the end of the season, he is confident they can stay there.

Scotland international Bardsley said: "Things happen in football. If you just look at the transfer window on Monday night, that just says everything about football. You never know what's going to happen, and that's the enjoyable thing, that's why everyone loves it. I am enjoying my football, enjoying being at this football club.

"We have a great bunch of lads, a top manager, the coaching staff, everybody around the place enjoys being part of each other, and if we show that attitude and togetherness, we have got a hell of a chance to go forward."

Chelsea succeeded on Wearside where Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United before them had failed, to become just the second team this season after Blackpool to win a league game at the Stadium of Light.

But they had to come from behind to do so on an evening when the impending introduction of Brazilian defender David Luiz, rather than that of striker Fernando Torres, looked to be the main reason for the visitors' £75m deadline-day spending spree.

Bardsley lit the blue touch-paper of a pulsating first half with just four minutes gone when he took advantage of some less-than-committed defending to make his way forward from halfway unchallenged before cutting inside Jon Obi Mikel and sending a swerving, dipping shot past a stunned Petr Cech.

It was just his second league goal for the club and came within weeks of his first, a winner at Aston Villa last month, although he was at a loss to account for his new-found potency.

Bardsley said: "In the last three years, I have had my fair share of shots that have gone here, there and everywhere, but in the last few weeks... It must be those Weetabix that have helped me hit the back of the net – and hopefully there are more to come."

Sadly for Sunderland, Bardsley's strike simply served to galvanise Chelsea, and Frank Lampard's 15th-minute penalty, awarded for Ahmed Elmohamady's ill-judged challenge on Ashley Cole, and a neat finish by Salomon Kalou eight minutes later, looked to have restored order.

But still the Black Cats refused to capitulate and Kieran Richardson's 27th-minute free-kick pegged Ancelotti's men back, although it owed as much to the flimsiness of Cech's defensive wall as to the midfielder's shot.

Branislav Ivanovic hit the bar from close range before the break, and he and his team-mates assumed control after it to pepper Craig Gordon's goal with Kalou seeing one particular effort hit both posts before running to safety.

By that point, captain John Terry had restored the advantage with a close-range finish on the hour, and the impressive Nicolas Anelka, whose withdrawn position behind Didier Drogba and Kalou perhaps represented a hint as to his future role, made sure in injury time.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said: "Imagine when they put Torres in there as well, how formidable they are going to be. It's mouth-watering."

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all