Mourinho had only just begun when Branislav Ivanovic, one of Chelsea’s worst performers this season, headed in Willian’s corner
Mourinho is gone, but the Cult of Jose lives on, rendered immortal by homemade banners, life-size cutouts of the man himself and the sheer sense of injustice that so many of the Stamford Bridge faithful brought to their stadium on an extraordinary day in the club’s history.
There are strange days in the life of every football club, even more so at Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich years, but none in recent memory when there has been so much anger directed at the home team for improving their performance in the aftermath of a managerial sacking.
Their favourite has gone, and even though this was just their fifth league win of the season, many of the home support just could not bring themselves to forgive, let alone forget. On the pitch, Chelsea were three goals ahead within 48 minutes but that only seemed to enrage the home support more.
“Where were you when you were s***?” they asked of Pedro Rodriguez when he scored the second, his first league goal since August. Where, indeed? This was one occasion that was a no-win for the Chelsea team: lose and it was more of the same, win and it was more evidence of Jose’s Great Betrayal.
The temperature was high before the game even started with one homemade banner proclaiming Fabregas, Costa and Eden Hazard as “rats” and another sternly warning the whole squad “You let us down, you let Jose down”. Hazard was absent through his hip injury and escaped the treatment meted out to Costa and Fabregas who will have known they were in for a difficult afternoon when their names were booed when they were announced pre-match.
The second chant for Mourinho had only just begun when Branislav Ivanovic, one of Chelsea’s worst performers this season, headed in Willian’s corner. He appeared to run towards the area of the pitch below Abramovich’s private box to celebrate and the owner himself jumped to his feet. When Pedro volleyed in a second on 13 minutes the message for the home support was clear: they did not appreciate the improvement coming only after the sacking of their favourite manager.
Only the ebullient Willian, whose name was cheered when it was announced before the match, seemed to be exempt from the blame. The third goal was from the penalty spot three minutes after half-time. Costel Pantilimon needlessly tripped Willian as he ran away from goal and Oscar was as keen as ever to take the penalty which he scored easily.
Sunderland had been pretty dreadful, in spite of the five-man defence which Sam Allardyce started with. He abandoned that when Adam Johnson came on for Sebastian Coates after 23 minutes and Fabio Borini was sent on at half-time for Ola Toivonen. The former Chelsea academy boy Borini scored on 53 minutes from close range when Younes Kaboul headed Johnson’s free-kick back across goal.
Afterwards Allardyce was unforgiving of his team’s performance. “We never competed in the areas we should have done,” he said. “The more space we gave them, the more their confidence grew. It was really disappointing for my team to have played and performed as we did in that first half. We needed to change in that first half because we were being annihilated at the time.”
Chelsea’s temporary coach Steve Holland substituted Costa on 75 minutes and as he came off he was booed by a lot of the home support. There was applause too but Costa only seemed to hear the former and looked round him with the kind of expression he normally saves for opposition centre-halves. Fabregas had got similar treatment earlier. As ever, it was split with much applause for both players too but it was notable that on the bench there was a very demonstrative offering of praise and reassurance to the substituted players from the coaching staff.
“There was a lot of pressure on us before the game, but we’ve brought that on ourselves,” John Terry said. “We needed everyone out there, and everyone was superb. Rightly so, we need to win them [the fans] back. Chelsea is such a big club. We’re not used to being here. We’ll come out on top sooner rather than later. Rightly, they [the fans] are disappointed at the moment”
Rarely has there has been so much anger directed at home team for improving performance in aftermath of managerial sacking