Sunderland 3 Chelsea 2: Black Cats won't crack under pressure of relegation fight, says Jermain Defoe

Striker admits he was overwhelmed with emotion as Sam Allardyce's men took a huge step closer to Premier League survival with a thrilling win at the Stadium of Light

Monday 09 May 2016 11:51
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Sunderland celebrate Defoe's winner against Chelsea
Sunderland celebrate Defoe's winner against Chelsea

The north-east of England may not be a place where grown men have traditionally felt able to shed a tear in public but for Jermain Defoe at the Stadium of Light, the response was fully understandable.

After all, if any player in the scramble to avoid relegation from what will be the most lucrative domestic league in football history has shown more mental strength and bloody-minded fortitude than the veteran Sunderland forward, then it is hard to identify him.

Some 16 months after being exiled to the football wasteland of the MLS, Defoe has scored 15 times for a struggling team, his latest goal against Chelsea clinching three points which mean that victory over Everton on Wednesday will mathematically ensure survival.

“Don't tell anyone! It is hard not to. It is crazy,” said an emotional Defoe about his tears. “The fans won us the game.

“Even when you are fatigued and tired - it has been a long season mentally as well - when the fans roar like that, you find something. You find an energy. We knew it was a massive game but to win like that is unbelievable.

“It was unbelievable. The fans knew how important the game was. The noise was frightening. I got goosebumps.

“But it’s just about mentally being strong. You can forget about the tactics and formations. It is mentally being strong.

“It is between there (points to ears) That is the difference. Mental strength. Being positive. Sticking together. Don't let the pressure get to you. Don't let the occasion get to you. Look at it like another game where we need to get three points.

“When it is all done you take it all in and embrace what you have done. The key thing now is being strong mentally and just trying to get that last win.”

In all possibility, given the sharp decline of Norwich and Newcastle and their glaring inability to show the qualities described by Defoe, Sunderland could lose their remaining two matches and still survive.

For Chelsea, a miserable title defence ended with one of their greatest figureheads of the past two decades - captain John Terry - suffering what could well prove to be an ignominious end to his career with the club.

The defender was sent off in the closing minutes for a second bookable offence and, with his future at Stamford Bridge in grave doubt beyond the end of this season, that may represent the final act of a career which has peppered a fair amount of controversy with a large amount of success.

“Of course, he is not happy we lost,” said team mate and goalscorer Nemanja Matic. “But we know what he has done for this club and what he has won.

“All of us in the team wish him all the best for the future and of course this is not a good way to finish in a club but we don’t forget what he won and what he has already done.

“Everything can change in a couple of months. We had a winning mentality and in a couple of months we lost it. In a couple of months everything can be back and we will see.”

For winning manager Sam Allardyce, however, Terry has not played his last game in the Premier League should the four-time league champion wish to remain at the top level in this country.

“It’ll not be his last game in the Premier League because somebody else in the Premier League will take him if he wants to stay in the Premier League,” he said.

“He might feel, like David Beckham did, that he won’t play for any other club in the Premier League and go venturing far and wide because there’s that many places like America and China that will take a John Terry.”

Sunderland (4–1-4-1): Mannone 8; Yedlin 7, Kone 5 (O’Shea 55, 6), Kaboul 8, Van Aanholt 7; Kirchhoff 6 (Watmore 64, 6); Borini 7, Cattermole 7 (Larsson 71, 6), M’Vila 7, Khazri 9; Defoe 8. 
Substitutes (not used) Pickford, Larsson, Rodwell, N’Doye, Lens, Watmore
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois 5; Ivanovic 6 (Baba 68, 6), Cahill 6, Terry 5, Azpilicueta 6; Mikel 5 (Traore 83), Matic 6; Willian 7 (Oscar 79, 6), Fabregas 8, Hazard 6; Costa 6.
Substitutes (not used) Begovic, Pato, Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek.
Referee: M Jones

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