Black Cats stand up to Blues

Sunderland 0 Chelsea 0

Black Cats stand up to Blues

The 33-year-old considered himself a little over the hill when it came to strutting his stuff on the runway, choosing instead to support his team-mates from the sidelines in their charity efforts.

On the pitch, however, the advancing years seem to be no impediment to the Republic of Ireland international. With a combined age approaching 70, O’Shea and Wes Brown are at a juncture where discussing Costa should be more about planning a visit to their local coffee shop, rather than attempting to shackle £32m-worth of striking talent.

Brown admitted he didn’t know what had hit him after tangling with the Chelsea forward, who — not for the first time since his recent introduction to the Premier League — left his mark.

Not on this occasion in a productive manner by way of adding to his impressive tally of 12 goals, but courtesy of petulant challenges that saw Brown caught full in the face by a flailing arm, and O’Shea’s ribcage experience an unwanted meeting with the Spaniard’s studs.

Sunderland’s veteran defensive duo had the last laugh, ensuring the Premier League leaders drew a blank for the first time this season. Costa was withdrawn before he could do further damage, after earning his fifth booking of the campaign for his reckless challenge on Brown, and with it a suspension against Tottenham on Wednesday.

“I don’t know what hit me,” former Manchester United and England centre-back Brown said. Both he and O’Shea creditably refused to make an issue of Costa’s excesses, and the 35-year-old added: “I was caught by something.

“It was more his follow-through, and the lads said it didn’t look to be on purpose. I’m a defender and I’m pretty much used to that, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Jose Mourinho praised Sunderland’s perfectly executed rearguard action. With the back five magnificent, and Lee Cattermole relishing his midfield spoiler role, the hosts dug in to deservedly earn a share of the spoils for an eighth time this season, stemming a nine-game losing streak at home to the London club.

Three-and-a-quarter hours without shipping a goal is a timely transformation from a side that conceded eight in 74 minutes of mayhem at Southampton in October. Brown added: “We knew we were going to have to defend for long periods. It wasn’t just down to skill or technical ability, that display had a bit of everything. You could see how much we wanted it.”

It was a case of Sunderland parking the bus, then belatedly realising they could take it for the occasional fruitful spin against tiring visitors, who are unbeaten in 20 games but were the more relieved at the final whistle.

Both sides struck the woodwork, Willian the foot of a post, Santiago Vergini the crossbar, as early Chelsea dominance gave way to a grandstand Sunderland finish.

Adam Johnson, twice, and sub Jozy Altidore both went close to clinching three consecutive Sunderland victories over Mourinho’s side, against who they remain the last team to win in the Premier League, almost eight months ago.

“Defending the way they did, they can make it difficult against any team,” Mourinho admitted.

“If we score a goal, then they’re in trouble, but we didn’t. I wouldn’t criticise their strategy, I respect it.”

SUNDERLAND (4-1-4-1): Pantilimon 8; Vergini 8, O’Shea 8, Brown 8, Reveillere 8; Cattermole 8; Johnson 6, Larsson 6, Rodwell 5 (Gomez 62, 5), Wickham 7; Fletcher 6 (Altidore 64, 7).

CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Courtois 7; Ivanovic 8, Cahill 7, Terry 7, Azpilicueta 7; Fabregas 7, Matic 7; Willian 8 (Schurrle 85, 5), Oscar (Drogba 76, 6), Hazard 7; Costa 6 (Remy 76, 5).

Referee: Kevin Friend 6.

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