Champions come from behind the take three points back to capital
The victory moves the Blues within one point of Manchester City in third place a day after their sensational double capture of Fernando Torres and David Luiz on transfer deadline day.
The Black Cats stay sixth in the table after the defeat, but fall further adrift of the league's five leading lights as the season moves into its latter stages.
Sunderland took the lead with their first attempt on goal in the match when Phil Bardsley drove forward from left-back, cutting inside on the edge of the box before taking a pop at goal. His impressive effort swerved toward the bottom right-hand corner and past Petr Cech to give Sunderland a shock third minute lead.
Chelsea looked shell-shocked as Sunderland’s midfield began to establish themselves on the game. The mobility of Chelsea’s front three looked as if it could cause problems though, when Salomon Kalou cut infield from the right and Frank Lampard wandered into the space vacated by the Ivorian.
A deflected pass found its way to Lampard, who didn’t hesitate as he went for goal, but although his shot was firm, it ended up on the wrong side of Craig Gordon’s right-hand post.
It wasn’t long before Chelsea were back in the game, however, with Ashley Cole winning his side a very generous penalty from referee Mark Halsey.
The ball was lobbed forward into the box and Cole took a fall under minimal contact from Ahmed Elmohamady. Lampard stepped up for Chelsea and coolly dispatched it to level the score.
Chelsea took the lead with 22 minutes played after two defensive mistakes by Sunderland. Anelka threaded the ball through to Kalou, who was played onside by Anton Ferdinand – standing two yards behind the defensive lead.
Kalou raced through on goal as Gordon charged off his line prematurely. The Ivorian was smart to this and took his shot early, sending it past the stranded keeper and it trickled over the line to give Chelsea the lead.
Sunderland were back on level pegging three minutes later as Elmohamady jinked through the Chelsea defence and was brought down on the right-hand edge of the Chelsea penalty area.
Richardson hit the free-kick low and hard as it zipped under the Chelsea wall and into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. Cech didn’t even move and, incredibly, four goals had been scored within half an hour.
Captain's example | Terry goal tilted game in Blues' favour
The second half started with a barrage of attacks from Chelsea as they looked to finally establish firm control of the match.
Kalou crossed from the right flank in the opening minutes and only a last ditch block from Nedum Onuoha denied the forward. The visitors nearly bundled the ball home from the resultant corner, with Kalou throwing a boot into the mix at the back post. Steed Malbranque was on hand to block on the post with Jordan Henderson there to mop up and clear.
Chelsea inevitably converted this pressure into a third goal and it infuriated the home fans as it came from a corner they were adamant shouldn't have been given.
The initial cross was cleared only as far as Lampard, who fired goalwards. Gordon did well to save, but the rebound fell to Terry who hit his shot into the ground and it bounced up over Gordon to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.
Once ahead for a second time, the champions never looked like they would relinquish their lead from this point onwards.
Restricting Sunderland to very few opportunities, the result rarely looked in doubt again and Anelka added a fourth in injury time with a tidy finish after a smart pass from substitute Florent Malouda.
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