Chelsea 2 Sunderland 1 match report: Screaming suppressed as Sunderland suffer on Paolo Di Canio's debut at Stamford Bridge

Sunderland lose the lead

Paolo Di Canio jumped about in his technical area yesterday, animated and emotional from start to the finish.

He spoke furtively to his assistants with his hand covering his mouth as if there might be spies watching his every move. He wore a loud diamond-patterned sweater under a suit that would not look out of place on a Home Counties golf course.

But, by the end, Sunderland were only outside the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference after Wigan’s late equaliser at Loftus Road and their new manager has only six games to turn it around.

For a while the first-half display looked like it might be good enough for at least a point but, ultimately,  Chelsea did not have to play particularly well to win this game. The home side were sleepwalking through much of the first half, went in a goal behind and then won the match with two goals within 10 minutes of the start of the second half.

As for Di Canio, he was animated throughout, whispering into the ear of Craig Gardner at the end of the game with the kind of earnestness of a man passing on his dying wishes. Gardner, substituted in the 82nd minute, looked like he was just a little bit confused. Then Di Canio broke away to give Yossi Benayoun a hearty hand-clasp and man-hug.

If points could be earned for grimaces, shrugs and sheer volume of pointing, then Sunderland’s manager would be well on his way to leading his team to safety. As it is he got a  decent first-half performance out of them and then watched them fade away against a Chelsea side playing their third game at Stamford Bridge in the space of eight days.

Di Canio took his time arriving for his post-match press conference, having been through a full debrief with a team that have now taken three points from their last 27. It ended when he took exception to being asked why Chris Powell, whom he had cited last week as a character reference in the midst of the storm over his political views, had declined to vouch for the Italian’s character. A fair question, but Di Canio thinks it’s behind him now.

He was more interested in questioning the physical state of the team he inherited from Martin O’Neill. It was a problem compounded, he said, by losing Danny Graham to a knee injury, meaning Connor Wickham started in attack. “I’m not going to say they’re not fit,” Di Canio said, before adding: “It’s not the fittest team in the world. But we are going to work and give them more energy in the next few days and weeks.”

That could be difficult given that their potentially season-defining game against Newcastle at St James’ Park is coming on Sunday but then Di Canio is not short of confidence.

The biggest change from life at Swindon Town was that at Sunderland he was not always preparing a team, he said, with the expectation they would win the game. “But if you are a good manager, like I am, you can change,” he said.

Was he a good manager? “No,” he said. “I’m a very good manager.” The post-match was becoming another examination of the life and times of  Di Canio. He does not seem to mind.

“When you are a manager you’d like to be successful and receive respect from the others,” he said, when asked about how he would prefer to be perceived. “You can’t make everybody happy anyway. I’m Paolo Di Canio and I’m like how I am. There are quiet people and quiet managers, very noble persons. Today I was very calm because I saw my players playing very well. Maybe next time I won’t jump but I’ll scream more.”

If there was one saving grace in all this for Rafael Benitez it was that people seem to have forgotten about the animosity he has faced from the Chelsea fans. A lone “Rafa Out” banner still flaps on the home side of the Shed End but otherwise it was notably quiet in that respect yesterday as his side made it three wins in three since their defeat at Southampton.

The big concern for the Chelsea manager is the injury to Demba Ba which prevented him coming out for the second half, although it did mean that Fernando Torres was introduced to great effect. It was Torres’ run down the left two minutes after half-time that opened up Sunderland and allowed Oscar a shot on goal that was saved by Simon Mignolet and ricocheted in off Matthew Kilgallon.

The second Chelsea goal came on 55 minutes when Branislav Ivanovic reacted quickly to David Luiz’s shot from the edge of the area and re-directed it nicely with the inside of his boot, back to goal, past Mignolet.

Chelsea looked relatively comfortable after that although they were  fortunate that referee Neil Swarbrick did not make more of an elbow by Luiz on Wickham.

The first half was a different story, with Sunderland spirited and good going forward, especially in the move right from the back on 19 minutes when a Luiz free-kick was blocked. It led to Danny Rose carrying the ball forward and via Stéphane Sessègnon it reached Adam Johnson whose shot was blocked by Luiz, Chelsea’s best performer.

The Sunderland goal came just before half-time when John O’Shea got his head to a right-wing corner from Johnson and Cesar Azpilicueta shanked the ball into his own goal. Come the second half, Sunderland just could not stay the course and build on  their advantage.

Di Canio was asked afterwards about the description of him as “unlikeable” by David James, a former team-mate at West Ham, in his Sunday newspaper column. The answer was long and rambling but what Di Canio seemed to be saying is that everyone changes.

“We maintain the principles from when we’re young, but you change as a man, now as a manager,” he said.  “I respect everyone’s opinion. But it’s not an issue for me, to be honest. I respect your job. I respect my ex-team-mates. But I am sure about myself. If you ask me, I can answer. But if I have to answer every comment, we’ll be here all day.”

The new arrival was applauded by the travelling Sunderland support at the end, although there are those who have vowed to stay away. Di Canio’s feeling about those fans? “I’m sorry for them”.

Bookings: Sunderland Gardner, Rose

Man of the match Luiz

Match rating 6/10

Possession: Chelsea 62%. Sunderland 38%

Attempts on target: Chelsea 3. Sunderland 0

Referee N Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Attendance 41,500

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
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

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world