A late first half goal from Cesc Fabregas was enough to seal three points for Chelsea and extend their winning streak to ten games in a row.
Back in the side, back amongst the goals
For the opening stages of the game, it was clear that Chelsea were going to have to work hard to break down a Sunderland side desperate for points and the visitors could only get a handful of crosses in from the left, with no one there to finish them off.
A dull first half sprung into life with just over 30 minutes gone as David Luiz's free kick from distance took a deflection off the wall but was caught firmly by Jordan Pickford. Chelsea knew it'd be a tough ask but took the lead with five minutes to go until half time as a rapid counter-attack saw Cesc Fabregas find Willian, who played a return ball to Fabregas on the edge of the box and the Spaniard's cool, sidefooted finish found the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Fabregas, who has struggled for game time under Antonio Conte, returned to the starting lineup today and took his chance well.
Antonio Conte's men almost added a second in first half stoppage time as Willian's thunderous effor whistled just over the cross bar. A 1-0 lead at the break for the visitors against a Sunderland side that had managed to keep Chelsea quiet for the first half an hour.
Courtois saves the day
The second half got underway in much livelier fashion compared to the first and Sunderland almost found a equaliser early on. A quick move by Sunderland saw Jermain Defoe slip Adnan Januzaj in but the Belgian's low driven shot was saved expertly by the outstretched foot of Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea responded with a great chance of their own on 52 minutes as Willian's pace took him away from Lamina Kone but his shot deflected off a sliding Papy Djilobdji and onto the crossbar. The ensuing corner found it's way to the feet of Victor Moses but his shot from the edge of the box was saved comfortably by Pickford.
Pickford kept his side in it two minutes later, keeping a Diego Costa effort from nestling into the far corner with a good save.
Sunderland continued to push for an equaliser and forced Cesar Azpilicueta into an excellent defensive header with a minute to go in normal time. The resulting corner was met by Jason Denayer but it struggled to threaten Courtois.
The hosts almost broke the hearts of the travelling supporters as former Chelsea youth prospect Patrick Van Aanholt brought down a clearance and powered a volley that looked destined for the net if not for the strong palm of Courtois.
Chelsea's win puts the six points clear atop the Premier League with a busy winter period coming up. A hard-fought 1-0 win away at the Stadium of Light as they held on for the latter stages of the second half. The defeat leaves Sunderland rock bottom of the league table and David Moyes will have a lot of work to do over the Christmas period.