Few would have expected Sunderland to emerge with anything to show for their efforts as they prepared to host Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
Gus Poyet’s Black Cats dug their claws into the table-topping Blues, though, to end the evening with a creditable 0-0 draw.
They were full value for a battling point, with the north east outfit coming as close as anyone to derailing Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten start to the campaign.
Their success in frustrating Chelsea and limiting their ability to dictate proceedings was not down to some sort of tactical masterstroke.
Poyet set his side up to do the basics, and do them well.
They responded in style, with experienced heads such as Lee Cattermole and John O’Shea leading by example and inspiring those around them.
Sunderland were able to excel in key defensive areas, with it those numbers which ultimately allowed them to contain the division’s highest scorers and a side that are threatening to run away with the top-flight title.
|Match||Total Clearance||Total Tackle||Interception||Clean Sheet|
|Sunderland||Sunderland vs Chelsea||20||22||21||1|
|Chelsea||Sunderland vs Chelsea||16||25||9||1|
Looking at the Opta statistics above, it is the number of Chelsea moves Sunderland were able to break down which really stands out.
The hosts made more than double the amount of interceptions as their weekend opponents, with their ability to keep the Blues at arm’s length allowing them to secure a fourth clean sheet of the season.
Poyet will also be pleased to have seen his defensive unit sweep up 20 attacks with important clearances and more than hold their own in the tackle count.
Given that it is only a little over a month ago that the Uruguayan was watching his side ship eight goals at Southampton, the turnaround on Wearside has been little short of remarkable and bodes well heading into the busy festive period.