SUNDERLAND battled bravely but couldn’t pull off a famous double against a Chelsea side that turned on the style.
Bruce knew his team would have been in with a chance had they not been their own worst enemies.
Chelsea are box office again after hitting a rich vein of form and then signing Fernando Torres and David Luiz on transfer deadline.
Bruce was the first to admit the view from Stamford Bridge these days is an impressive once again.
“They are a fantastic team and they look like the Chelsea of old again.
“I thought John Terry, Ashley Cole Nicolas Anelka – they were terrific. They looked like the team that won the double last season.
“I’m just disappointed we gave them a helping hand on the night, because we gifted them goals.
“For all we played well, we gave bad goals away.
“And what’s painful for me is that a large part of the reason why we’re sixth in the table is because we’ve been so strong defensively.”
Bruce was pleased with the way his side performed in the first half and pleased too with the tidy debut of the talented Stephane Sessegnon.
“I think you can see why we’ve brought Sess to the club,” he said. “He’s a livewire.
“It wasn’t great for him to have to make his debut against one of the best teams in Europe, but you could see what he was about.
“He played well and so did the whole team early on – I thought that as a spectacle, the first half was great, breathtaking.
“It must have been great for the neutral – pace power energy – everything we’re proudest of about the Premier League,” said Bruce, right.
“It was disappointing that after a wonderful start we gave away a silly penalty and made a silly mistake for the second goal.
“Having said that, we gave as good as we got for most of the game and you have tor remember that Chelsea are Premier League champions and we have half a dozen first-team players missing.
“So all credit to the players who produced such a good performance, they can take a lot of credit for that.”
Ultimately Bruce had to acknowledge the quality of the champions.
Looking back over the game, he said: “Anelka was phenomenal and if Drogba and Torres end up playing up front with Anelka behind – then wow!
“I think Anelka’s good enough to play anywhere and they have made two unbelievable new signings on top of all the quality they already have.
“I went to the pictures on transfer deadline day about 4pm to watch the Kings Speech and when I came out and saw the news about Chelsea I almost had a stutter as well!”
Bruce had made one change to the side which beat Blackpool 2-1 on its previous outing – Bolo Zenden denied a game against his former club after suffering a training ground knock, which allowed the manager to blood new signing Stephane Sessegnon on the left wing.
Chelsea made two changes to the side which swept Bolton aside 4-0 in their last league game – Frank Lampard replacing Ramires while Salomon Kalou started in place of Florent Malouda in the Blues front three.
Steve Bruce had said before the game that he hoped fans enjoyed the match and there was much to enjoy in the opening 45 minutes – not least, Sunderland taking the lead four minutes into the game thanks to Phil Bardsley’s second goal in four league games.
The terrier-like Steed Malbranque gained possession in central midfield and fed the ball forward to the left-back.
Receiving the ball on the halfway line, he advanced down the left, cut inside Mikel on to his stronger right foot a yard outside the box and smashed a low shot away from Petr Cech and into the far corner.
But, just as it was starting to look good for the home team Ahmed Elmohamady undid all the good work when he clumsily jumped on Ashley Cole’s back on the quarter-hour and felled the left-back.
Craig Gordon may have established himself as a Sunderland star during his time on Wearside but he has yet to save a penalty; Frank Lampard has barely missed one in Chelsea colours, so it was no surprise when the keeper went right and the shot went to his left.
Chelsea took the lead for the first time in the 23rd minute, when Nicolas Anelka’s defence-splitting pass put Kalou through on goal and Craig Gordon was caught yards outside the box when the Chelsea man slid the ball around him.
But Sunderland grabbed an equaliser