SUNDERLAND, England — Chelsea failed to score for the first time this season although the Premier League leaders remained unbeaten after a 0-0 draw with Sunderland on Saturday.
Having previously been held by Manchester rivals United and City, this was just the third time this season Chelsea had dropped points.
Both teams did hit the woodwork in the first half, with Sunderland defender Santiago Vergini denied by the crossbar and Chelsea midfielder Willian hitting the foot of the post.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet praised his players for "defending for their lives," and Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho had no complaints about the tactics employed by the hosts.
"The other team wanted to stop us winning," Mourinho said. "To defend well and a lot isn't a crime. It's part of the game. It's strategy. My players tried everything. They took risks."
On a frustrating day for Chelsea, which had scored five in the Champions League at Schalke on Wednesday, Diego Costa nearly allowed it to get the better of him. The visiting striker appeared to kick out at defender John O'Shea and then caught Wes Brown with his arm in an aerial challenge, an offense which earned him a fifth booking of the campaign.
Chelsea is seven points ahead of Southampton, which hosts third-place Manchester City on Sunday.
"I have nothing negative to say about my people," Mourinho said. "Well done, one difficult match."
The draw was particularly pleasing for Poyet after seeing his side concede eight times at Southampton last month.
"We stopped Chelsea from scoring for the first time this season, we knew how difficult it was," Poyet said. "I saw the Champions League game (against Schalke). We needed to be good in terms of defense.
"I'm very pleased with the performance. The quantity of work in the defensive area that we did in the last four, five weeks after the Southampton game, it's showing."
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