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TheSpecial Gone!

Byline: DAVE KIDD at Stamford

AS Chelsea's title bid imploded and Jose Mourinho's 77-match unbeaten home League streak came to a crashing halt, the chant rang out around Stamford Bridge.

"Who's the Scouser in the black?" they sang at referee Mike Dean, who had just made the bravest of penalty awards to allow Fabio Borini to slot home a late winner.

Borini, on loan from League leaders Liverpool. Dean, from the Wirral, just across the Mersey. You could see the cogs in Mourinho's mind working on conspiracy theories and excuses.

Instead, he issued a sarcastic statement of praise for the referee and his boss Mike Riley, in a vain attempt to deflect attention away from a deserved defeat against the bottom team in the league.

defeat against the bottom team in the league.

In a vain stab at mitigation for his assistant coach Rui Faria, whom Mourinho had to forcibly restrain from confronting Dean, even dragging his fellow Portuguese back by his hair.

But when Chelsea lose, there is always a smokescreen.

Just as there had been when Mourinho confronted ref Chris Foy at Aston Villa and even a ballboy at Crystal Palace.

But it could not deflect from the fact that Mourinho's treasured record at the Bridge is finally gone and that Chelsea's title hopes are no longer in their own hands.

They could win every match, including the visit to Anfield next Sunday, and still not be champions.

They will be five points behind Liverpool, should Brendan Rodgers' men defeat Norwich today. They will head to Atletico Madrid for Tuesday's semifinal first leg, knowing the Champions League is now their most realistic chance of silverware.

chelsea sorely missed keeper Petr Cech, absent through sickness, with deputy Mark Schwarzer spilling one to allow Connor Wickham a first-half equaliser, which cancelled out a THAT'S REF Dean confronted Samuel Eto'o opener.

They also missed the creativity of the injured Eden Hazard, looking devoid of creativity.

But Sunderland thoroughly deserved this victory. They are back from the dead in the relegation battle after a remarkable week, which saw them come so close to winning at Manchester City, thanks to a Wickham double.

How Wickham will be worshipped on the red half of Merseyside - and Borini, the Italian who had flopped at Anfield last season, too.

Wickham has come from nowhere to become the single most influential figure in this compelling title race.

JUSTICE: by Terry Yet the crazy evening, which brought Mourinho's downfall, had begun in orderly fashion.

Eto'o won the corner, from which he scored, with a saucy piece of skill to skin John O'Shea and, when Willian centred, Eto'o sneaked in front of Lee Cattermole to volley home from six yards.

But the lead lasted just five minutes - thanks to the first meaningful goal Chelsea have conceded at home this year and the first of any kind here for more than 14 hours of football.

Seb Larsson's corner went deep to Marcos Alonso, whose low drive was spilled by Aussie Mark Schwarzer - in a manner rarely seen from his nation's slip fielders this winter - allowing Wickham to poke home.

It was the 41-year-old keeper's first league appearance for Chelsea - and proof that bench rust can cause butterfingers.

Then, Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone was suddenly the centre of attention.

First, the Italian helped Branislav Ivanovic's downwards header up on to the bar; then, an outstanding double-save from Nemanja Matic and Mo Salah.

from Nemanja Matic and Mo Salah.

There were screams for a penalty when Marcos Alonso handled, but a spot-kick would have been harsh.

And then it was the bad and the ugly from Ramires.

First, he missed what looked to be an open-goal headed chance, after a forceful challenge from Larsson.

Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder then seemed to attempt revenge by handing the Sunderland midfielder an arm in the face off the ball - a flashpoint that could earn him a retrospective ban.

Eto'o fired wide early in the second half, but there was an uncharacteristic lack of control about Chelsea.

Poyet's men had rattled Chelsea to such an extent that even John Terry - long-serving enough to have been a former Blues team-mate of the Sunderland boss - was committing basic errors. Mourinho sacrificed Oscar for Demba Ba, who soon squandered a fine chance, before Fernando Torres became the last throw of the dice and went close with a bicycle kick.

But when Cesar Azpilicueta slipped to let in Jozy Altidore and clipped the American as he attempted to recover, Dean pointed to the spot and Borini slotted a spot-kick straight down the middle.

Then came the snarling fury of Faria - truly astonishing scenes.

Mourinho's teams do not lose often, but, when they do, it is usually like this.

In acrimony and disgrace.

KIDD'S VERDICT Whatever the controversy, Sunderland were well worth their victory. Chelsea lacked creativity, the Black Cats got a true chance of safety - and almost ended Jose's title hopes.

You could see the cogs in Mourinho's mind working on consipracy theories

CAPTION(S):

THAT'S REF JUSTICE: Dean confronted by Terry

COOL AS YOU LIKE: Borini strokes his penalty home after Schwarzer dives

MACKEM PROUD Borini and team-mates celebrate his crucial spot kick, which won it
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 20, 2014
Words:866
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