Black Cats Beaten By Second Half Blitz (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 3 Sunderland 0
Richard Jolly reports
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink added a late third to put the seal on a comprehensive victory which extends Chelsea's unbeaten run to eight games
Only the excellence of Jurgen Macho prevented a heavier defeat for
Howard Wilkinson's side with the Austrain threatening a repeat of his
heroics at Anfield a fortnight ago as he denied Graeme Le Saux, Frank
Lampard, Hasselbaink and Mario Stanic.
But for almost an hour, Sunderland appeared on course for a second hard-fought away point at title challengers after their remarkable draw at Liverpool.
Chelsea, however, once again displayed the extra steel Claudio Ranieri's side have shown this season and, unusually, netted twice from set pieces.
The Frenchmen broke the Black Cats' resistance with unlikely scorers Gallas and Desailly epitomising the entire team's determination to get into scoring positions.
Ranieri's fondness for substitutions and changing formations is well documented and often criticised but the half-time arrival of striker Eidur Gudjohnsen for a midfielder, Enrique de Lucas, was an indication of Chelsea's ambition.
That ambition was not matched by Sunderland, who invariably had eight outfield players behind the ball. With a mere eight goals in 16 Premiership games, they are English football's lowest scorers and never looked like shedding that unwanted tag today.
Indeed, it was symbolic that the Chelsea central defenders had more shots on target than Sunderland's strikers; the introduction of the pacey David Bellion provided one threat but the woeful lack of creativity should worry Wilkinson.
After Sunderland's shut-out at Anfield, an early goal appeared essential for Chelsea to prevent a similar showing from Sunderland and within 30 seconds Zola had found Hasselbaink only for the Dutchman to shoot wide from an acute angle.
The Black Cats had scarcely mustered a shot in their two previous games but right back Stephen Wright at least registered an effort, albeit wide, after fine work from Flo.
Zola was in irrepressible mood in the early stages, displaying a full repertoire of backheels, shimmies and Cruyff turns in a showboating display almost rivalled by Jesper Gronkjaer.
But Chelsea's possession and technical excellence did not produce a host of first-half chances against the dogged team from Wearside, though Zola fashioned himself an opportunity but shot straight at Macho.
Strike partner Hasselbaink had been given a starting spot after his late equaliser at Bolton but was less predatory when Gronkjaer crossed and he evaded the attentions of the Black Cats' best defender, Phil Babb, only to pick out Macho with his header.
And after Frank Lampard had shot wide from distance, Mario Melchiot spurned a similar opportunity with Gronkjaer again the provider.
Former Premiership top scorer Kevin Phillips has a solitary goal to his name this season and, deprived of any service, he wriggled and turned to squeeze in a shot Carlo Cudicini held.
Another forward finding goals hard to come by this year, Hasselbaink, missed a third chance of the half as he shot wide and Ranieri responded to the stalemate with a double chance as he introduced Emmanuel Petit and Gudjohnsen.
As important, though, was the greater ambition shown after the interval by full backs Melchiot and Le Saux. The duo almost broke the deadlock when the Dutchman crossed for the England reject to connect sweetly with a volley that brought Macho's best save so far.
And they were involved again for the opening goal, Melchiot backheeling to Le Saux after a corner and the left back curling in a cross which Gallas met emphatically at the far post.
It was the best possible response from Le Saux, furious at being hacked down by Gavin McCann two minutes earlier as Sunderland had become increasingly desperate to hold on to their point. In a ten-minute period either side of the opening goal, all three of their midfield trio were cautioned for late lunges with Paul Thirlwell and Kevin Kilbane joining McCann in Steve Bennett's book.
Apart from the arrival of the dangerous Bellion, who at least brought Cudicini into action with a shot, Sunderland had little response to the goal, Plan B looking rather less effective than Plan A for Wilkinson.
Chelsea, in contrast, were buoyant and stormed forward looking for a second. Macho kept out Zola's long-range dipping volley, Gudjohnsen's curler just missed the post and Hasselbaink's fierce drive was well parried by the in-form keeper, who topped that with a terrific stop from Mario Stanic's long-range shot.
Desailly came closest of all when Babb made a brilliant interception to deny the France skipper a tap-in after Macho parried Frank Lampard's shot.
And then a second goal arrived in a similar move the first. This time skipper Desailly made the far post run and escaped from substitute George McCartney to meet Le Saux's pin-point cross.
Hasselbaink put the gloss on the victory with an accurate finish after Zola cut in from the left flank to pick him out and still it could have been four with Petit the last Chelsea player to threaten Macho's goal.
This was the type of game Chelsea haven't won in previous seasons;
they ended it threatening a rout.
Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly, Le Saux, De Lucas (Gudjohnsen 45), Morris
(Petit 45), Lampard, Gronkjaer (Stanic 81), Hasselbaink, Zola.