After failing to even crack Sunderland's 18-man game-day roster earlier this month, United States international Jozy Altidore finally got some playing time and had a direct impact on the result Saturday. Sunderland recovered from conceding an early goal at Stamford Bridge to defeat Chelsea, 2-1, with Altidore drawing a penalty in the 81st minute.
Chelsea left back César Azpilicueta slipped, allowing Altidore to swoop in and drive into the penalty area. Azpilicueta was slow to recover as Altidore dribbled toward the endline, sliding through the American's left leg and taking him down.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, and Fabio Borini — on loan from Liverpool — passed the ball on the ground and into the middle of the goal. The result gives Sunderland a chance to crawl off the foot of the Premier League table and possibly avoid relegation, and it also gives Liverpool the upper hand in the title race at the other end of the standings.
Watch Altidore's run that draws the penalty and Fabio Borini bury the spot kick below:
Altidore has fallen far from manager Gus Poyet's first-choice lineup, even dropping down to play with the Black Cats' under-21 team in early April. His last Premier League start was March 26, in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool, and he has only scored one league goal this season, which came in December.
In fact, Saturday's 66th-minute substitute appearance was Altidore's first first-team action since that game against Liverpool. Despite his positive impact, major question marks still exist over his form before the U.S.'s pre-World Cup camp in May. Even drawing the penalty was more a result of Azpilicueta's poor challenge than any individual brilliance on Altidore's part. Still, it's the first positive piece of news regarding Altidore's play in a while in his first season back in England after last summer's transfer from AZ Alkmaar. After 50 goals in all competitions for AZ in two seasons and setting the goalscoring record for Americans abroad in 2012-13, it hasn't been a happy second stint in England for Altidore.