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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 April, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Chelsea boost Euro bid
Carlton Cole is mobbed by his Chelsea team-mates after his winner
Cole scored a stunning winner
Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea tightened their grip on the fourth Champions League place with a last-gasp win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Three days ago, the same ground staged England's impressive win over Turkey in the Euro 2004 qualifiers.

And on this occasion, both sets of fans were treated to an end-to-end display of attacking football.

Sean Thornton put Sunderland ahead with a stunning right-foot volley in an impressive first half by Mick McCarthy's men.

But the Black Cats were simply unable to contain the threat of Gianfranco Zola and impressive second-half substitute Carlton Cole, who scored the goals that moved Chelsea five points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool.

The defeat is Sunderland's ninth on the trot, although there were signs of an improvement under new manager McCarthy.

12 mins: Thornton scores a thumping volley
52 mins: Zola equalises for Chelsea
53 mins: Hasselbaink has a goal disallowed
85 mins: Cole unleashes a stunning second

The Wearsiders started brightly and created the first chance with three minutes gone.

After Marcel Desailly had been dispossessed, Thornton slid the ball through for Kevin Phillips to turn and force a fine save from Carlo Cudicini with a left-foot drive.

Buoyed by a raucous home crowd, Sunderland continued to press and were rewarded for their endeavour on 12 minutes.

A poor headed clearance by Frank Lampard allowed Thornton to control the ball on his chest and the former Tranmere man unleashed an inexorable first-time strike that flew past Cudicini.

Sunderland should have doubled their advantage moments later when Kevin Kyle met Thornton's corner unopposed but directed his header wide of the target.

Marcus Stewart then stuck out a foot and poked the ball past a gaping goal.

Sunderland midfielder Sean Thornton celebrates his opener
Thornton's superb opener was cancelled out

That miss proved a massive let-off for Chelsea, who seized the moment to produce their first incisive attacking move of the match.

A crossfield, diagonal ball by Graeme Le Saux was exquisitely controlled by the brilliant Zola, but he shot straight at Thomas Sorensen.

Sunderland were then forced on the back foot as Chelsea went in search of a much-needed equaliser.

The omens looked good when the Black Cats went into the break with their lead still in tact.

But Zola signalled his intent immediately after the restart, breaking down the left and cutting inside Thornton before forcing an acrobatic save from Sorensen.

Zola, though, restored parity soon after when Cole headed down William Gallas' cross and the diminutive Italian's shot was deflected past Sorensen by the unfortunate Talal El Karkouri.


It could have been worse seconds later when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink bundled his way past the Dane and shot home, only to be called back for handling by referee Dermot Gallagher.

However, Chelsea were not to be denied a valuable victory when Cole, who proved the catalyst to the visitors' second-half comeback, scored a brilliant left-foot volley late on.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Gray, El Karkouri, Bjorklund, Williams, McCann, Thornton, Kilbane (McCartney 86), Phillips, Kyle, Stewart.
Subs not used: Poom, Babb, Proctor, Arca.
Booked: El Karkouri.
Goals: Thornton 12.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Gallas, Desailly, Terry, Melchiot, Morris, Lampard, De Lucas (Cole 45), Le Saux, Zola (Zenden 88), Hasselbaink (Oliveira 90).
Subs not used: de Goey, Huth. Booked: Cole.
Goals: Zola 52, Cole 85.
Att: 40,011.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).



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