Sunderland Safe Despite Defeat  (Sky Sports)

Sunderland 2 Chelsea 3

Kieran Richardson celebrates his goalSunderland will be the North East's only Premier League representative next season after surviving on a nervy final day.

The Black Cats went into the final day two points clear of the drop zone so despite suffering a 3-2 home defeat, the failure of Hull City, Middlesbrough and arch-rivals Newcastle to win meant they secured a third straight season in the top flight.

Ricky Sbragia then stepped down as manager to make way for a 'bigger name' after achieving the survival target he was set when succeeding Roy Keane in December.

Sunderland made a nervy start before golden boot winner Nicolas Anelka gave Chelsea a 47th-minute lead by hitting a stunning 25-yard strike to register his 19th Premier League goal of the season.

Kieran Richardson got the Black Cats back on level terms just six minutes later and although Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole struck in the last 16 minutes, results elsewhere meant Sunderland were safe.

Kenwyne Jones pulled one back at the death but it was not enough to deny third-placed Chelsea their 11th win in 13 Premier League games under interim coach Guus Hiddink, who will return to his role as Russia coach after next week's FA Cup final against Everton.


A crowd of 42,468 left the Stadium of Light in high spirits for very different reasons, with the victors looking forward to Wembley and their hosts anticipating the watching Ellis Short's buy-out.

Hiddink left out only Alex and Frank Lampard, and an early injury to Juliano Belletti meant Michael Ballack also got a run-out from the bench on his return from a hamstring injury.

It was a measure of what was at stake on a tense final afternoon of the season that the biggest cheer of the first half had nothing to do with what was happening at the Stadium of Light.

With 38 minutes gone on Wearside, the news filtered through that Aston Villa had taken the lead against Newcastle, and the resulting celebrations among the fans decked out in red and white were as much in relief as at the misery of their black and white neighbours.

Grant Leadbitter's shot flew wide in the 25th minute but otherwise Sunderland looked nervy in the first half as they struggled to limit Chelsea.

The Blues' best moments came at either end of the half with Didier Drogba chipping an eighth-minute shot just over the back-pedalling Marton Fulop before forcing the Hungarian goalkeeper into a solid save from a tight angle.

Fulop had to be at his best to pull off a full-stretch save after Drogba turned smartly on the edge of the box and curled a shot towards the bottom corner.

And moments later on the stroke of half-time, Malouda crashed a dipping left-footed drive against the crossbar with Fulop beaten.

Brilliant opener

There was nothing Fulop could do to prevent Chelsea taking the lead two minutes after the restart when Anelka lit up the game with a piece of individual brilliance.

The French striker picked up the ball around 35 yards out and skipped past Teemu Tainio before unleashing a piledriver which flew past Fulop's despairing dive and into the top corner.

Sunderland eased their nerves by getting level within six minutes as the industrious Leadbitter battled hard for the opportunity to cross from the left, and when Cech spilled the ball under pressure from Jones, Richardson pounced to smash the rebound home.

Fulop had to be on his toes to keep out Ballack's near-post flick from a 57th-minute Malouda corner, but the home fans were starting to relax as the nightmare scenario receded.

Sunderland enjoyed their best spell of the game as they started to play with a freedom which had been lacking in recent weeks, and they could have taken the lead with 19 minutes left.

Steed Malbranque broke from his own half and exchanged passes with Calum Davenport, only for John Terry to intervene before the Frenchman could pull the trigger.


But it was Kalou, who had earlier replaced Michael Essien, who made it 2-1 three minutes later when he also drilled an unstoppable shot past Fulop from the edge of the box.

Sunderland continued to battle gamely, with Phil Bardsley forcing another save from Cech with a long-range effort, but it was Cole who wrapped things up four minutes from time by punishing some confusion in the home defence to claim his first goal of the season.

Jones' 90th-minute header was merely a consolation as scores elsewhere meant Sunderland's survival was confirmed regardless.


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Sunderland  Fulop, Bardsley, Davenport, Ferdinand, Collins, Malbranque (Healey 78), Whitehead, Tainio (Reid 65), Richardson (Murphy 87), Leadbitter, Jones
Subs Not Used Colgan, McShane, Edwards, Cisse
Booked  Bardsley
Goals  Richardson 53, Jones 90

Chelsea  Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, A. Cole, Terry, Belletti (Ballack 27), Essien (Kalou 65), Mikel (Mancienne 78), Malouda, Anelka, Drogba
Subs Not Used
  Hilario, Di Santo, Sinclair, Stoch
Booked  A. Cole
Goals Anelka 47, Kalou 74, A. Cole 86

Attendance 42,468

Referee M. Halsey

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