We can keep all our striking talent happy, insists Ancelotti

Sunderland 2 Chelsea 4
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The Independent Online

It is not so much the $64,000 question as the £50m version. So how exactly is Carlo Ancelotti going to fit Fernando Torres into the forward equation of a team who attacked with such verve on Wearside last night, exacting revenge for the 3-0 home defeat against Sunderland in mid-November that precipitated Chelsea's mid-season slump?

The manager of the reigning Premier League champions shrugged his shoulders and gave a wry smile. "I know very well he is not a goalkeeper, a defender or a midfield player," Ancelotti said, when asked how he would accommodate the record signing by a British club. "He is a striker. He doesn't have a problem playing with Didier Drogba and any other striker. Torres can play in any team because he has fantastic ability. We don't have a problem putting him in our squad."

The Chelsea manager also made it clear there would be "no problem" in Torres making his debut at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, even though the visitors happen to be his former employers. "He can play against Liverpool, Ancelotti said of the Spaniard, who put in his first shift as a £25,000-a-day Chelsea player yesterday, working out on his own at the club's Cobham training base.

On the evidence of last night's cracker of a contest, Torres will slot into a 4-3-1-2 formation, featuring Nicolas Anelka in the kind of attacking support role in which the veteran Frenchman revelled – on this occasion, playing behind the Ivorian duo Drogba and Salomon Kalou. "Maybe we play with two strikers," Ancelotti pondered. "It doesn't change a lot. With a diamond in midfield, our shape doesn't change too much. Today Anelka played very well in that position. He was very dangerous."

He was that, although in claiming their third successive Premier League win – which keeps them in fourth place, 10 points behind leaders Manchester United – the reigning champions were a danger to themselves at the back. With just four minutes on the clock, they afforded Phil Bardsley the freedom of the left flank, allowing the former Manchester United full-back to advance to the edge of the penalty area – with John Obi Mikel offering only a token challenge – before unleashing a right-foot shot that sped past goalkeeper Petr Cech into the far corner.

Still, the boys in blue managed to claw their way back on to level terms. On the quarter hour Michael Essien lofted a pass to the left side of the home penalty area and Ahmed Elmohamady, Sunderland's Egyptian midfielder, sent Ashley Cole tumbling with a clumsy challenge. Frank Lampard made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Eight minutes later the champions were 2-1 up. The goal was brilliantly fashioned by Anelka, with a left-foot pass from just before the half-way line that released Kalou. Still, with Craig Gordon haring out of his goal, it required a deft touch from the Ivorian striker – a flick with the outside of his right boot – to find the back of the net.

The tide had turned but Sunderland managed to stem the visitors' attacking flow long enough to hit back in the 26th minute. From a free-kick outside the right edge of the Chelsea penalty area, Kieran Richardson squeezed a low shot in between the defensive wall, the diving Cech and the near post.

It was another sucker punch for Chelsea to absorb but they ought to have been back in front before the interval as they all but laid siege to the home penalty area, Gordon thwarting Essien and Drogba and his crossbar denying Branislav Ivanovic.

It was a similar story after the break. In one goalmouth scramble French midfielder Steed Malbranque appeared to rescue the home side with a combination of his upper arm and his chest. The pressure, however, finally told on the hour mark.

Lampard struck a right-foot shot from outside the left edge of the box that Gordon could only parry one-handed to Terry, who beat the Sunderland keeper with a right-foot strike from 12 yards. It was no more than Chelsea deserved.

The wonder was they did not double their tally. Put clear by Anelka, Kalou struck one shot that cannoned off both posts and wide. Not until injury time did they nudge into the comfort zone, Florent Malouda cutting a ball back from the left by-line and Anelka nonchalantly turning it past Gordon.

"Chelsea were fantastic," Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, acknowledged. "They looked to be back to what they have been. With Torres and Drogba up front and Anelka in behind... wow. That sounds good to me."

For the second time in two days, Bruce was almost lost for words. Asked to recount his reaction when he learned of Torres' £50m move, Bruce said: "I'd been to the pictures to see The King's Speech. When I came out I nearly had a stutter as well."

Sunderland (4-4-2) Gordon; Onuoha (Cook, 87), Bramble, Ferdinand, Bardsley; Elmohamady, Henderson, Malbranque (Colback, 82), Sessègnon; Richardson, Gyan. Substitutes not used Mignolet (gk), Mensah, Angeleri, Riveros, Reed.

Booked Richardson.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa (Ferreira, 90), Terry, Ivanovic, Cole; Essien, Lampard, Mikel (Ramires, 77); Anelka, Drogba, Kalou (Malouda, 81). Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Bruma, McEachran, Sala.

Man of the match Anelka.

Match rating 8/10.

Referee M Halsey (Lancashire).

Attendance 37,855.

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