Fortress breached, Chelsea all but out of EPL title race

The defeat left Chelsea in second spot on 75 points from 35 games with three matches left.

By: Reuters | London | Updated: April 20, 2014 6:36:15 pm

Chelsea’s title hopes suffered a major blow with a shock 2-1 home loss to bottom side Sunderland on Saturday as manager Jose Mourinho suffered a Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge for the first time.

Fabio Borini, on-loan from league leaders Liverpool, scored the winner with a penalty in the 82nd minute after Cesar Azpilicueta brought down Jozy Altidore, bringing an end to Mourinho’s record of 77 unbeaten home league outings with Chelsea. Sunderland’s Connor Wickham had equalised in the 18th minute to cancel out Samuel Eto’o’s early opener.

The defeat left Chelsea in second spot on 75 points from 35 games with three matches left, two points behind Liverpool who have played 34 and visit Norwich City on Sunday.

There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the match with Chelsea midfeilder Ramires seeming to deliberately elbow Sebastian Larsson in the face early in the second half, with the scoreline still reading 1-1. The incident happened off the ball and the referee did not book the Brazilian. Later, the referee failed to spot something that had an even bigger impact on the game. With few minutes remaining on the clock, Sunderland striker Altidore benefitted from left back Azpilicueta’s slip and bore in on the penalty area. However, the defender appeared to get back even as Altidore went down. The referee pointed at the spot, but replays indicated that Altidore had merely slipped and Azpilicueta had not made any contact with the striker. Borini dispatched the penalty for what turned out to be the winner.

Sunderland, who drew with third-placed Manchester City in midweek, stay bottom with 29 points, one behind Fulham and Cardiff City with a game in hand. The Premier League survival hopes of Cardiff City and Fulham remain no clearer after a draw with Stoke City and loss to Tottenham Hotspur respectively kept them marooned in the relegation zone with three matches remaining.

Cardiff fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 to move above 19th placed Fulham on goal difference after the west Londoners went down 3-1 at Spurs, who won with goals from Paulinho, Harry Kane and Younes Kaboul. The pair are two points behind Norwich City, who host leaders Liverpool on Sunday.

Newcastle United slumped to their fifth straight loss after a late Wilfried Bony penalty earned Swansea City a 2-1 win, lifting the Swans to 36 points, six clear of relegation danger, while Crystal Palace’s resurgence under Tony Pulis continued with their fifth consecutive victory courtesy of Mile Jedinak’s second-half penalty in a 1-0 win at West Ham United.

Atletico three wins away

Madrid: Meanwhile in Spain, Atletico Madrid stayed on course for their first Spanish league title in 18 years with a 2-0 win over Elche on Friday, and now turn their attention to receiving Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals. Defender Miranda scored the opening goal at Vicente Calderon Stadium in the 72nd minute when he floated his header just inside the upright before Diego Costa added a penalty he had earned in stoppage time for his 27th league goal of the season.

Atletico needed goalkeeper Courtois Thibaut to make successive saves around the half-hour mark, and didn’t lose their composure after David Villa had a penalty saved in the 51st. Atletico provisionally extended their lead over Real Madrid to six points, with Barcelona another point behind. Madrid won’t play Valladolid until May 7 as they rest after winning the Copa del Rey title and prepare to host Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the other Champions League semifinal. Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

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