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Poyet: 'If we play like that, we'll survive'
THEY might have finished on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller, but Gustavo Poyet feels Sunderland will avoid relegation if they repeat last night's efforts against Chelsea in the remaining five months of the season.
The Black Cats remain at the bottom of the Premier League despite scoring three goals in a league game for the first time this season and pushing second-placed Chelsea all the way at the Stadium of Light.
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring with his first league goal as a Sunderland player, and while Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard hit back for the visitors, John O'Shea levelled at the start of the second half.
Chelsea were always in control, though, and Hazard's second goal restored the London club's lead before Phil Bardsley's own goal gave Sunderland a mountain a climb.
Bardsley scored at the right end to set up a thrilling finale, and while Poyet's side were unable to equalise for a second time to snatch a point, there was sufficient spirit and resolve to suggest their position at the foot of the table is far from irretrievable.
“I think if we can play like this, fight like this and make it as difficult for the opposition as we did, we will stay in the Premier League,” said Poyet. “I am proud of the players, although I am still hurting because we lost.
“I need to be positive. It was an exceptional game of football which the fans love, but which as managers we hate. Chelsea had to work very hard to take the three points, and that makes me proud.
“We tried everything we could and couldn't do more. It wasn't enough for little reasons. We made mistakes defending and you cannot do wrong against this team.”
In particular, Sunderland were punished by Hazard, with the Belgian producing a virtuoso display that underlined his status as one of the most exciting attacking players in Europe.
The midfielder set up Lampard's opener before cutting in from the left flank to score two goals himself, and Poyet admitted his players could not cope with Hazard's technical ability and blistering turn of pace.
“Hazard was unplayable,” said the Sunderland boss. “I don't remember another player performing at this level against me as a manager. It was spectacular.
“We tried everything – doubling up, tripling up – and even changed the player who was playing wide. It was a great display, probably the best I have seen this season from an individual player.”
When Poyet took over from Paolo Di Canio, he immediately identified his first encounter with his former club, Chelsea, as one of the biggest games of his reign.
The occasion did not disappoint, even if the final result leaves Sunderland five points adrift of safety.
“It was what I wanted, to be managing against one of the best teams in the world at this level,” he said. “That's why you are at the highest level, because you can do your best and try. But then the opposition can still be better than you, or have a special player on the day. But that's why I want to be here, for these games.”
Chelsea remain four points behind league leaders Arsenal, and while Jose Mourinho was disappointed to see his side concede three goals from set-pieces, he still felt last night's performance was the Blues' best away display of the campaign.
“We played fantastic football,” said Mourinho. “We created the better ball and were dynamic, and it was by far our best away performance.
“We had a special player in Hazard, and (Juan) Mata also played a fantastic match. We played a phenomenal game, top quality. We built the play up well, with great creativity.
“We scored beautiful goals, but it is also about basic things and we failed in the most basic thing of the game, which is defending set plays.”
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