After dispatching of West Ham in comfortable fashion only two days previous, a trip to St Mary’s would prove a sterner test for a Chelsea team who look like a secure unit all over the pitch at the moment.
A close match you would predict, a prediction fortified by these teams’ defensive records all season, although Southampton have wavered of late, with the win at Crystal Palace giving an extra boost against the Premeir League’s fearsome opponents of Chelsea. That prediction was indeed matched as Southampton managed to grind out a 1-1 draw as they maintain their position in the top four on goal difference.
With teenager Matt Targett being roped in at left back for Ryan Bertrand who was ineligible to play against his parent club, you felt this position of the pitch would be exploited by Chelsea. However, throughout the game, there was a united and sense of intensity from the home side. Although the opening stages of the contest was at the mercy of a Chelsea bombardment, as a left wing cross was batted away by Forster to stamp out Terry’s attempted header. Mane did put an appetising cross in for Jose Fonte who put his header across the goal to nearly give Southampton a lead.
The lead was opened by Southampton in the 17th minute as Dusan Tadic evaded the offside trap, surprising Terry and putting the ball to Mane who kept his measured demeanour and put the ball firmly over Courtois in their one-on-one. Chelsea continued to dominate the possessional side of play but nothing gave substance against the Saints who had a small bite in attack, with the right amount of kick to leave Chelsea hovering in the middle of the park.
On the brink of half-time Hazard took advantage of gaps in the wide areas, terrorising the Southampton centre-backs and then dispatched clinically to equal the scoreline and get the Southampton players worrying before heading in for the break. This goal being Chelsea’s only shot on goal in the first half and testament to their ruthlessness in attack – that is what the best teams do.
The early reaches of the second half saw Fabregas being clipped by Targett, with the penalty claim being ignored and instead being considered simulation from the Chelsea midfielder. This did put the game in another gear as Chelsea saw Hazard’s attempt on the hour mark missing the post after he swiftly turned to shoot with little time to think.
Didier Drogba was soon introduced, with his introduction followed by a horrendous back-pass from Ward-Prowse who was let of when Diego Costa slipped in his pursuit. Chelsea were again revitalised in attack when Morgan Schneiderlin was sent of after seeing his second yellow card. Despite this sense of urgency emerging from Chelsea they failed to hit the target again as Southampton managed to see out the remaining charges from the Blues.
It was one of those games today where both teams were slightly laboured, being mid-way through this hectic, festive schedule. Chelsea had possession but were often left agitated as Southampton most of the time were sound in defence. Southampton indeed rendering Cheslea to very few shots which is no easy feat. It seems that Southampton have put their five game losing streak to bed and are now back in business, while Chelsea will be delighted that Manchester City could only draw with Burnley – thus retaining their three point lead at the top of the table going in 2015.