Chelsea 7 Sunderland 2
Chelsea maintained their slender lead at the top of the Barclays Premier league by hitting sorry Sunderland for seven at Stamford Bridge.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side proved they can prosper without their quartet of African stars as goals from Nicolas Anelka (two), Florent Malouda, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard (two) and Michael Ballack set the seal on a fine afternoon for the Blues.
It kept them one point ahead of Manchester United at the summit of the Barclays Premier League with a game in hand on their rivals.
Sunderland managed two consolation goals through substitute Bolo Zenden and Darren Bent but Steve Bruce’s side have now failed to win in their last eight league games.
Chelsea dominated from the start and Joe Cole could have put them in front in the first minute.
But the England international failed to beat goalkeeper Marton Fulop after Malouda’s header had put him clear of the Sunderland defence.
Ashley Cole then headed wide from point-blank range in the fourth minute when Joe Cole’s cross found him at the far post.
But the returning Anelka put Carlo Ancelotti’s side ahead in the seventh minute.
The France striker pounced on a clever through-ball from Ballack, rounded Fulop and placed the ball into the net.
Sunderland’s first real attempt on goal arrived in the 13th minute but Bent’s shot from the edge of the penalty area was easily saved by Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal.
Malouda added a second for Chelsea in the 17th minute when he collected the ball just inside the Sunderland half, shrugged off two challenges and sent an angled right-foot drive into the bottom corner of the net from 18 yards.
Sunderland had not won in the league since beating Arsenal in November and they were not in the same class as the Blues.
The gulf was underlined in the 22nd minute when the league leaders went 3-0 in front with another simple move.
John Terry’s lofted ball from the back found Ashley Cole sprinting into the penalty area and the England left-back dummied Lorik Cana before dinking the ball over Fulop.
In the 32nd minute, Anelka got clear of the Sunderland defence yet again but this time Fulop’s knees prevented him from scoring.
But it mattered little as Chelsea made it 4-0 two minutes later. Anelka fed Ashley Cole on the left wing and his cross was volleyed home from six yards by Lampard.
Chelsea were now playing some vintage stuff and moments later Ashley Cole was only denied a second by Fulop’s outstretched hands.
Ballack was inches away from a fifth in the 36th minute when his curling shot fell just the wrong side of the left-hand upright.
Joe Cole forced Fulop into a diving save in the 43rd minute with a shot from the edge of the penalty area before Chelsea were cheered off the field at the interval.
Chelsea made two changes at half-time. Captain Terry was replaced by Alex while Yury Zhirkov came on in place of Ashley Cole, who collected a knock scoring his goal.
But Chelsea still dominated and in the 50th minute, Fulop had to tip a shot from Anelka onto the crossbar and post to prevent the home side scoring a fifth.
But the goal came in the 52nd minute and it was pure simplicity for Chelsea.
A cross from Joe Cole on the right flank was headed home from six yards by the unmarked Ballack.
Sunderland hit back in the 56th minute when substitute Bolo Zenden fired home from the edge of the penalty area.
But Chelsea’s sixth duly arrived in the 64th minute when Zhirkov’s cross was punched straight to Anelka by Fulop and the Chelsea striker slotted into an empty net from the edge of the area.
In the 75th minute, Anelka was denied a hat-trick when his shot from six yards was somehow kept out by Fulop.
Nine minutes later, Joe Cole hit the post with a header after Juliano Belletti had knocked an Alex free-kick into his path.
But Chelsea made it 7-1 in the 89th minute when Lampard headed home a cross from Anelka. Moments later Bent scored from close range for Sunderland before Chris Foy brought proceedings to a close.