Football: Any chance Sunderland had of relieving the growing pressure on Martin O'Neill disappeared in first half stoppage time when Fernando Torres converted a controversial penalty to put Chelsea 2-0 up.
Three minutes into the second half the Chelsea fans high above Petr Cech's goal were chanting "Easy! Easy!" after Juan Mata grabbed a third.
Both goals had their root in the sloppy play that has characterised Sunderland's season so far and all O'Neill could do was throw up his arms in despair.
His side pulled a goal back before the end, but it wasn't enough to stop them slipping into the drop zone, exactly where they were 12 months ago.
It's as if the year since O'Neill took charge has never happened, but they only have to wait 72 hours until their rearranged fixture with fellow strugglers Reading for the chance to climb out of the bottom three.
"The goals either side of half time were major setbacks to us," O'Neill said. "The players put a lot of effort in and we feel like we can get something to take into Tuesday."
O'Neill's side started with a sense of urgency, looking to inflict an early wound on a Chelsea side without a win in the league since October, but it was the visitors who created the better chances. Eden Hazard and Torres went close in the opening five minutes giving a hint of what was to come shortly.
Victor Moses fed Hazard wide on the left and he delivered a perfect cross for the onrushing Torres, who found space between John O'Shea and Danny Rose, to touch into the net. There were only 11 minutes on the clock, but already the writing was on the wall.
Stephane Sessegnon's shot from distance in the 28th minute was the first meaningful chance of note the Black Cats had had.
He went even closer seconds later after good work on the left by Adam Johnson. While it was Sessegnon who nearly found the back of the net, it was Johnson who sparked the fire.
However the period of pressure came to nothing and ended in controversy when referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot just before the break.
Sebastian Larsson slid into a tackle on Ramires and, while Chelsea player was barely in control of a ball running into touch, it was still a foul. Torres made no mistake with the kick, the first time he has taken one in the Premier League.
O’Neill was relaxed about the penalty. "If you go to ground like that you run the risk and it was a ball into the corner and the best they should have got was a corner but they ended up going to go half time 2-0 up."
The Black Cats fans weren't so measured, booing Halsey from the pitch at half and full time. Yet Chelsea deserved their victory. They might not look like European champions at the moment and their title chances might be all but over, but they were faster, their passing more accurate and their mistakes fewer.
"If the team play well and create chances for him he'll score goals," said Chelsea's interim boss Rafa Benitez, who had brought Torres to the Premier League. "We are confident with quality we have we can win games."
Any lingering hopes Sunderland had were totally wiped out when Mata grabbed Chelsea's third. When Sunderland scored it was fitting that Johnson was the man to do so. Seemingly going nowhere down the left he saw a small gap in the far top corner of Cech's goal and found it. Strangely the Chelsea captain moved his hands out of the way when he seemed certain to catch the ball. There were 23 minutes to play and, just as in the first half, Johnson's efforts sparked a period of intense pressure from Sunderland.
Johnson went close to finding the top corner again with a free kick in the 75th minute, while Danny Rose and James McClean caused havoc. Craig Gardner rattled the crossbar with a free kick, but again the pressure yielded no reward.
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