Lampard steers Chelsea to victory over Sunderland
Frank Lampard claimed an early winner as Chelsea beat Sunderland 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to hold on to its distant place in the Premier League title race.
Lampard was in the just right spot to open the scoring in the 13th minute, pouncing on the rebound after Spain striker Fernando Torres had crashed a powerful volley off the crossbar. Though there was a large slice of good fortune involved, the 33-year-old Lampard found the net for the third successive match after a goal in the FA Cup win over Portsmouth and a league victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Chelsea remains fourth in the standings, eight points behind leader Manchester City which plays at Wigan on Monday.
Torres also saw two strong penalty claims turned down in one of his best displays in a Chelsea shirt, Sunderland's Nicklas Bendtner had one rejected at the other end and teammate James McClean missed an open goal that might have snatched a point for the visitors.
Sunderland provided the early threat, with Stephane Sessegnon running through some nonexistent tackling before Jose Bosingwa prevented McClean tapping home in the fourth minute.
Lampard had already seen a shot blocked at the other end and Torres then flicked a header wide at the tip of an unfamiliar 4-1-4-1 formation. And the duo combined to give Chelsea a spectacular lead, Torres' scissor kick smashing against the crossbar and careering back off Lampard and into the net.
Poor defending from a corner then forced Sebastian Larsson to clear Lampard's hooked volley off the line as the home side held sway.
Sunderland's best chance of the half came 10 minutes before the break when Bendtner dragged Sessegnon's pass just wide with Petr Cech beaten.
Chelsea had kept only one clean sheet at home in the league all season and Sessegnon fired an early warning shot after the break when he drilled a volley straight at Cech.
Torres was convinced he should have had a penalty after going down under John O'Shea's challenge and Bendtner thought the same at the other end seconds later after being bundled over by Ashley Cole but referee Phil Dowd disagreed on both counts.
Vaughan flashed a 25-meter strike narrowly wide before McClean missed an open goal in the 63rd minute, stabbing wide after a brilliant run and cross from Larsson.
Torres was denied another penalty claim when he clearly appeared to have been tripped by Bardsley, with Dowd rubbing salt into the wound by booking the striker.
Michael Essien replaced Lampard to make his first appearance of the season after injury and sent a long-range drive wide.
However, Sunderland missed two glorious late chances to equalize, with Craig Gardner sidefooting wide after a great run by Sessegnon and Bendtner lifting the ball over the bar with only Cech to beat.