For Sunderland and their ultra-loyal travelling contingent of fans the news gets bleaker by the game. They remain without a point on their return to the Premiership and have now chalked up 20 straight losses in the top flight, including the tail-end of their relegation season two years ago. Claiming that his players had performed well, Mick McCarthy lamented, "The one big negative is that we keep getting beat." They were up against the meanest defence in the League but even so never looked like troubling Petr Cech, who had one half-hearted Jon Stead dribbler to collect.
"My players came back tired from 15 days away with 10 different managers and 10 different methodologies, some happy because they had won, some unhappy because they lost," said Mourinho. "And then they had to play against a team with 15 days to prepare for this game. "No wonder that today we didn't play well." Well enough, however, to brush aside the feeble challenge of Sunderland, who made plain their intentions by playing only Stead up front and stationing their new signing from Strasbourg, Christian Bassila, in front of the back four.
The good news for Chelsea was that John Terry, not fit enough to play for England because of a knee problem, got the rest which his manager wanted and returned to club duty. An undemanding return it was, too. But that was expected, so much so that Chelsea felt confident enough to operate with a three-man back line, losing one of that trio, Asier Del Horno, with a pulled muscle just before the end, which set Mourinho going once more about those dratted international demands which had put too much of a strain on his left-back.
The first half was so forgettable that Chelsea fans were muttering about their side's barren showing. They certainly looked off the pace, with Kelvin Davis being only marginally more employed in Sunderland's goal than Cech at the other end.
Duff came on for the second half in place of Eidur Gudjohnsen and Chelsea stepped up the pace and the effort. Five minutes had gone when Lampard struck the underside of the bar with a tremendous effort which bounced off Davis and three minutes later Chelsea were in front.
Andy Welsh, Sunderland's half-time replacement for Stead, failed to control a thrown clearance from Davis midway inside his own half and Géremi stole the ball from him, strode forward and unleashed a low shot from 25 yards which evaded the keeper's despairing dive.
On came Drogba (for Hernan Crespo) and Cole (for Shaun Wright-Phillips) as Chelsea took control, the only blip coming when Cole drew an immediate yellow card for an outrageous dive on the edge of the penalty area. Now the fans were happy, chanting "Stand up for the champions".
Davis, a busy fellow following the loss of Alan Stubbs with concussion, almost let an Arjen Robben effort slip between his feet but did much better to repel Cole's dipping long-range shot. Drogba was his usual profligate self, missing two good chances. First, he failed to apply his head to Robben's cross and then did not move quickly enough to Lampard's short pass.
But the other inevitability about the striker is that he doesn't miss too often, and, with nine minutes remaining, Duff crossed from near the left-hand corner flag and Drogba rose majestically above his marker to direct a downward header to Davis' left.
Mourinho offered a nod of approval to his defence: "It is good to feel that when we score a goal we will win. One day we will concede a goal, but that's not a drama."