LONDON: Chelsea’s fans turned on their own players and chanted support for ex-manager Jose Mourinho as his successor Guus Hiddink watched them ease to a 3-1 win over Sunderland. Mourinho was sacked on Thursday and Dutchman Hiddink re-appointed to reprise his role as interim manager a couple of hours before yesterday’s Premier League match kicked off. Hiddink has returned to Chelsea as manager “until the end of the season” following the sacking of Mourinho, the struggling Premier League champions announced.
The experienced Dutch coach, 69, returns to a role he previously performed in 2009, when he led Chelsea to glory in the FA Cup. “I am excited to return to Stamford Bridge,” Hiddink said in a statement on the Chelsea website. “Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world, but is not where it should be at the moment. However, I am sure we can all turn this season around. “I am looking forward to working with the players and staff at this great club and especially renewing my wonderful relationship with the Chelsea fans.” But Chelsea’s fans were far from happy, regularly chanting in support of the Portuguese, and not a single seated supporter could be spotted when they sang “Stand up for the Special One!” They had booed the names of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa when they were read out on the tannoy prior to the game, singling the Spain pair out as bearing responsibility for Mourinho’s demise.
One banner read “You let Jose down, you let us down,” and after Branislav Ivanovic and Pedro Rodriguez had put Chelsea 2-0 up inside 13 minutes, there was a deafening chant of: “Where were you when we were s…?” Nevertheless, Chelsea produced arguably their best performance of the season against a Sunderland side struggling in the bottom three. The hosts added a third goal in the second half through Oscar’s penalty before Fabio Borini pulled one back. With caretaker Steve Holland taking charge of the team while Hiddink watched from the stands along with former Chelsea favourite Didier Drogba, the home side needed only five minutes to take the lead. Ivanovic’s header from Willian’s corner gave him his first goal of the campaign and just eight minutes later, Chelsea scored their second.
They were helped by a defensive error from Yann M’Vila, who failed to clear Ivanovic’s cross, and Pedro capitalised to beat Costel Pantilimon for his first goal since September. Chelsea continued to attack, with Willian seeing an effort deflected wide, and after Sunderland’s Sebastian Coates had gone off to be replaced by Adam Johnson, Oscar was denied a third by a fine Pantilimon save. Sam Allardyce’s side were not helping themselves, another defensive mistake from captain John O’Shea letting in Costa, who shot wide. The Spanish forward then headed offtarget from Oscar’s cross. Chelsea’s confidence was slowly returning and Pedro saw a shot deflected into the arms of Pantilimon just before the break.
Borini was sent on for Ola Toivonen for the visitors at the break, but the game was up in the 50th minute when Pantilimon brought Willian down in the area. Oscar coolly slotted home the spot-kick. The chants for Mourinho continued, but Sunderland pulled one back two minutes later as Borini tucked home after Thibault Courtois had failed to gather Younes Kaboul’s header from Patrick van Aanholt’s free-kick. For the first time in the game, Sunderland had some momentum and Jermain Defoe and Borini both missed the target, producing mumblings of discontent from the Stamford Bridge faithful. The visitors were much improved, with Defoe driving wide again after Duncan Watmore had headed down Pantilimon’s long ball. But Chelsea continued to attack as well, Oscar finding the side-netting from Willian’s pass and Pedro miskicking from Ivanovic’s cross. Despite the result, Fabregas was booed by a section of fans as John Mikel Obi came on in his place and Costa also met with a few jeers when he gave way for Loic Remy. The impressive Willian was denied again by Pantilimon and Pedro missed a glorious chance after being freed by Willian, while Thibaut Courtois thwarted Defoe at the other end after Nemanja Matic had given the ball away. — AFP