Idols and sacred cows have never meant much to Roy Keane. So when he slaughtered the behaviour of John Terry it was with a customary matter-of-factness. The Sunderland manager, with that chilled disdain of his, was clearly disgusted with Terry's reaction to being challenged by Liam Miller, a tackle that, because of its consequences, earned the latter a red card and, with it, a three-match ban.
"Clearly you're not allowed to tackle the England captain, because there was a big issue made of it by himself and Pizarro," Keane said. "There was certainly an over-reaction from Chelsea players to the tackle by Liam, there's no getting away from that. The game was over. It was 2-0. The referee could have come over a few seconds earlier and calmed it down."
Keane did not dispute that Miller had to go after pushing Claudio Pizarro in the face and his criticisms may appear rich, given some of his blistering antics while Manchester United captain, but there is no escaping the fact that he had a point. Miller's tackle was poor, but so was Terry's response, and there is a streak in him, the one that sees him grab red cards out of referees' hands or hurl abuse in their faces, which needs to be addressed.
Maybe it is a product of the fact that he is still not at the height of his game following injuries, although it was also there when he was playing at his best. Chelsea were short of that in this fixture and Keane also correctly stated that they won without "getting out of first gear". That was as much a reflection on Sunderland, still reeling from the seven goals they conceded away to Everton, as anything.
How Avram Grant would love to play similarly limited opponents each week even if he protested that he would not especially with Didier Drogba ruled out for a month before he can even start training after knee surgery on Saturday.
Instead, Chelsea's next two League matches are away to Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers before they host Aston Villa, and relying on Andrei Shevchenko against that little lot would require an enormous leap of faith. Keane hit the nail on the head on that one. "They will get by against certain teams but when they play the big teams, I'm sure the big teams will be glad he's away," he said of Drogba's absence.
That absence could stretch into the beginning of February if Drogba recovers in time to play in the African Nations Cup. Grant seemed unsure about that but Drogba, the captain of the Ivory Coast, was clear. "No manager will be able to stop me from playing," he said. It makes the recruitment of another striker Nicolas Anelka or Benni McCarthy would fit the bill imperative, even if nothing can be done before January.
"It's impossible to replace Drogba because nobody else has the same power, pace and intelligence. But we have to find an answer," Grant admitted. He attempted to talk up Shevchenko but despite him taking his goal with aplomb, stretching to reach Salomon Kalou's fine cross to head home, it does not follow to say that "Sheva will revel in the responsibility".
Maybe Chelsea will have to fiddle with their formation, possibly reverting to a diamond in midfield, once Michael Ballack is fit. With three attackers, and Shevchenko alone through the middle, they do not have the mobility or power that the current approach requires. It will certainly be a test for Grant as much as the 31-year-old Ukrainian, who hailed his new manager's "attacking approach" as if he were chanting a mantra handed down from the club's owner, Roman Abramovich.
But despite their 70 per cent of possession Chelsea's football was pedestrian. Kalou struck the bar with a header early on and Pizarro diverted Frank Lampard's shot against the post late on but it never threatened to be a rout. Sunderland appeared pre-occupied with damage limitation and accepted defeat as long as it was not too heavy. Indeed, it was not until they started to edge back into the game, with some lively substitutions, that Chelsea doubled their score, with Lampard slamming home a penalty after Danny Higginbotham had tugged at Alex's shirt.
It was a soft penalty. But then this was a soft contest, which made Terry's prima donna reaction appear all the more unnecessary.
Goals: Shevchenko (23) 1-0; Lampard pen (75) 2-0.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Belletti, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Wright-Phillips, Kalou, Lampard; Kalou (Pizarro, 66) Shevchenko, J Cole (Sidwell, 85). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Bridge, Ben Haim.
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Ward; Halford, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins; Miller, Etuhu, Whitehead, Wallace; Leadbitter (Stokes, 70); Jones (Murphy, 67). Substitutes not used: Gordon (gk), Yorke, Cole.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Bookings: Sunderland Wallace. Sent off: Sunderland Miller.
Man of the match: Lampard.
Attendance: 41,707.Reuse content