It's been a long while since I did one of these, let alone one that wasn't in UEFA tourney action. But today seems a great day to give to all those stuck at work, seeing how a certain Jozy Altidore is starting. I will also be keeping some stat tallies for peculiar categories I dreamed up.
I'll be back in a moment with the line-ups, kickoff is in about 10 minutes.
Mannone; Bardsley, Dossena, O'Shea, Brown; Ki, Colback, Gardner; Borini, Giaccherini, Altidore
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian, Mata, Hazard; Torres
A quick note just prior to kickoff: Chelsea have won nine straight at the Stadium of Light.Of course, refresh the page for the updates.
Elvis is done crooning, game on from an Altidore touch...
Altidore wins a long ball in the air to spark a Sunderland rush , but Gia(ccherini) has his 20-meter shot blocked.
Altidore draws Borini's defender on the take, and it allows the Italian to curl away for a low shot that doesn't miss wide by too much.
Altidore draws a hold-up foul from Terry, but Sunderland wastes the free kick.
At the other end, a ball lobbed in by Mata is momentarily troublesome, but O'Shea handles it.
Altidore skips away from a defender like it's nothing to lead a rush up the gut, but his indecisive touch when it comes time to pass cools the play.
Sunderland have looked "more into it" so far, but their skill disadvantage shows. Altidore has one tough hold-up touch swiped, but handles the next nicely to no avail when his teammates flub their lines. Chelsea are just starting to assume command with possession.
Gia gets loose on the right and have three rampaging runners in the box, including Altidore, but overhits the cross. Welcome to Sunderland 2013.
Altidore wins two tough touches near the Chelsea area and then a foul right on the "top of the key" - basketball term. He wants this free kick, too... but won't get it. Dossena hits it into the wall, but it squeaks through to Altidore back to goal. He wheels around Terry and fires it through Cech. Slump over, 1-0 Sunderland!
Mata's troublesome cross wins a corner, which fails. However, the retain pressure and Lampard nods home a Hazard cross from the left. 1-1.
Chelsea are leaning on the hosts, without creating much of note.
A decent Sunderland possession spell, including tidy Altidore hold-up work, ends with a mis-hit Gardner cross straight to the keeper.
Dossena's deep cross is accurately headed for Altidore at the far post, but it has a little too much air and Cech catches.
Gia wins a free kick in a good place, but Gardner's serve is pure waste.
Complementing Altidore, O'Shea is having a big game in the Sunderland defense so far.
Altidore wins another ball in the air, he's 4-for-4 up there tonight. Oh yeah, and a decent cross is eventually cleared by Chelsea.
Altidore chases down a long diagonal, but wins a throw when he tries to win a corner. It comes to nothing.
Dossena can't quite pick out Altidore with a diagonal lob, but he gets it back and forces Cech to push an angled drive around. One corner becomes two, and a silly low feed is cleared easily. So there it is, Gus Poyet does not know this blog.
Mata's free kick from the corner falls to Torres off of Altidore's block/failed clearance (depending on how cynical you feel today), but he sails it well over somehow.
Sunderland waste another corner. And another. The third brings forth a blocked Wes Brown shot. Then Altidore wins two throws near the flag, and it all comes to nothing. Can Santa bring Sunderland some usable set piece delivery for Christmas?
Hazard gets loose on the left, cuts in and picks the low far corner like a star. Chelsea 2-1.
Mata is down after taking a "cross check" - hockey term - in the lower back from Dossena. Yup. it's a yellow.
Torres should be free and clear from a Lampard "blooper" - baseball term - but cannot control the touch under O'Shea pressure.
Sunderland breaks 4-on-4 and Colback opts for the wing, but puts it in the stands. Oof.
Hazard dangles it on a string until he finally wins a corner with a low shot. His resulting corner serve stinks, though.
Bardsley goes into the book after some close dancing, perhaps square, with Hazard in the corner. Nothing from the restart, though.
Kid Jozy ends the funk, he was big until they forgot he was out there late in the period.
Elsewhere, Tim Howard and Everton are scoreless at the break in Old Trafford. Brad Guzan and Aston Villa are up 1-0 on Southampton, for whom Cody Cropper is dressed. Terrence Boyd and Rapid Vienna are down 1-0 at Ried just past intermission, while Sacha Kljestan narrowly missed over just before halftime, with Anderlecht down 1-0 at Westerlo in the Belgian Cup quarters.
And we're back...
Altidore draws a yellow from Ramires while speeding past him down the sideline.
Bardsley's slow cross release wins a corner, which is hit horribly. Somehow, it wiggles through to O'Shea, who fires it home like he's Robbie Keane. No flip arrow thing, though. 2-2 now.
A low Torres ball across goal finds no takers, but Hazard wins a corner. Cahill fouls and that's that.
Torres also saw yellow in that episode, but I'm not sure why.
Hazard dazzles again on the break and draws a good save with a fat rebound. Torres then fluffs it way over.
Elsewhere, Anderlecht have tied it up, Aston Villa have leaked an equalizer and Rapid are down two at Ried, all getting late.
Altidore wins a free kick well out from the area. I don't even know what the serve is meant to do, if executed well.
The continually brilliant Hazard works a dreamy combo with a Lampard backheel to breach the area. He then finds enough space to drill home the Chelsea 3-2. Wicked.
Ba on for Torres. For Sunderland, Johnson on for Gia.
Elsewhere, Villa are back up 2-1 past the hour.
And here's the Altidore goal...
Goal Jozy Altidore - Sunderland 1-0 Chelsea (04... door video4all
Altidore finally whistled for a foul after having already drawn five.
Elsewhere, Southampton have tied it back up with Villa at 2-2.
O'Shea liiiiiiikely got away with a penalty foul on Ba there. Then, Gardner is bumped out of the air after a cross by Terry inside the other box, but again no whistle.
Elsewhere, Rapid have lost 2-0 at Ried in league play. Not good. On the other hand, Inspector Kljouseau and Anderlecht look headed to extras at cup hosts Westerlo.
Clearly making an effort to remember what the ball feels like, Altidore stoops to nod away a Chelsea free kick into the area. Fletcher then comes on for Gardner, while Mata is off for Mikel..
A Johnson cross actually causes some real trouble. The clearance falls to Ki, who shoots over from 18.
Ba gets loose on the right and plays a well-measured but harmless ball that Bardsley slides into his own net for some bizarre reason. Can we get Poyet to chase Lichaj? Or hell, Parkhurst? 4-2 Chelsea.
Hilarious. Bardsley then scores at the end of a corner kick pinball. Sunderland set up a grandstand finish, 4-3.
Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, Everton are up 1-0 in the 87th minute through Costa Rica wingback Bryan Oviedo and Villa have their third lead of the game at Southampton.
Willian gets a yellow while sauntering off for Schürrle. Six minutes added on as Altidore wins another tough touch...
Sunderland applying good, sustained pressure now...
Ki wiggles past and through what seems like 14 defenders before slipping it to Johnson. He fails to shoot, and then Ki slips trying hit his cutback. Urgh-pie, eat it up.
Altidore also booked for a bad tackle attempt from behind as Chelsea broke out.
A decent night for Sunderland, result notwithstanding. The same can be said for Altidore, who was among the game standouts until his team lost sight of him and Hazard took over like a wizard.
Naturally, my full wrap for Americans Abroad will be up at MLSS before long, inlcuding Tim Howard's shutout win at Old Trafford. Safe ride home, workin' folks.
- Greg Seltzer