Diego Costa (11)
Tadic (Pen 19)
Chelsea and Southampton shared the spoils with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Diego Costa scored his 18th goal of the season to give the home side an early lead before Dusan Tadic secured a point for the Saints from the penalty spot shortly after.
Jose Mourinho’s men were looking to bounce back from their Champions League exit on Wednesday with another three points towards the title. Second placed Manchester City blew their chance to close the gap after a demoralising 1-0 loss at Burnley yesterday, and Chelsea knew that a win here would give them an eight point lead with another game in hand. Mourinho opted for the same side that was taken all the way to extra time by PSG before losing on away goals, as Gary Cahill kept his place in defence ahead of Kurt Zouma for the visit of Southampton.
Ronald Koeman’s side got back to winning ways last time out after a three game winless run, although the Dutch manager still made four changes to the starting line-up. Toby Alderweireld, Dusan Tadic, Steven Davis and Shane Long all came into the side, while Graziano Pelle was dropped to the bench.
The home side were looking for a fast start to allay any fears of a hangover from midweek and Willian almost provided it with his cut-back after some neat footwork needing Alderweireld’s intervention. But it wouldn’t be too much longer before the Blues did grab an early goal; Eden Hazard held up the ball on the right side of the box and spread it wide to Branislav Ivanovic, who had the time to measure an inch perfect cross for an unmarked Diego Costa to head Chelsea into an eleventh minute lead.
It was perhaps a little harsh on the Saints who had started with a decent tempo themselves, although the space afforded to both Ivanovic and Costa was always going to spell trouble. However, they almost responded immediately with a trademark free-flowing move down the left. Morgan Schneiderlin started the move by knocking a short pass into the feet of Tadic, who played a one-two with Ryan Bertrand down the left wing to get in behind the Blues back line. The Serbian cut the ball back for an advancing Sadio Mane and his low left-footed shot brought a terrific reaction save from Thibault Courtois, before Tadic curled an effort narrowly over the bar after the Saints had recycled possession.
Koeman’s men were looking to pounce on any defensive frailties that were exposed on Wednesday and when they broke the back line again shortly after, they would grab their leveller. It was another quick one-two that would be Chelsea’s undoing as Victor Wanyama’s return pass set away Mane inside the box and the retreating Nemanja Matic clumsily bundled over the Senegalese winger for a penalty to the visitors. The recalled Tadic stepped up and unconvincingly beat Courtois from the spot, with the Belgian diverting it in via his trailing leg.
One of the notable features of the first half was Southampton’s dominance in midfield and they continued to carve the home side apart. Shane Long was twice denied by the linesman’s flag as he broke the defence once more and Tadic almost put the visitor’s into the lead with a sweetly-struck half volley that Courtois clawed away.
Mourinho stated on Wednesday that his side didn’t play well in the European exit and he would have been having similar thoughts here as the ease with which the Saints were getting in behind was remarkable. Another low cut-back caused panic in the Chelsea box with Courtois twice kicking away the loose ball before Mane wasted a good opportunity when the ball was stuck under his feet; curling his effort straight at the Belgian keeper. Diego Costa saw his towering header loop over the bar in the final moments of the first half as the sides trotted off all square.
The Stamford Bridge faithful were hoping for a much improved performance after the break but their start to the half was almost calamitous. Midfield destroyer Matic was extremely fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Mane just moments in and Alderweireld’s rocket of a strike from the resulting free-kick needed a tip away by Courtois once again.
The Blues had struggled to build any momentum throughout the match, although they finally managed to find an extra gear on 50 minutes. Diego Costa was denied by a terrific sliding tackle from Jose Fonte and the home side kept up the pressure with sustained possession around the visitors box. A series of crosses were not cleared and Costa came within a whisker of restoring the lead as he stretched to meet Willian’s driven effort, only to poke it against the post.
Shane Long’s blocked strike at the other end was a brief rest bite for the Saints, but now Chelsea had found their rhythm it was all one way traffic. Forster was becoming an increasingly pivotal figure as he pulled off a marvellous double save, denying Costa’s from Willian’s delicious cross and Hazard’s powerful rebound. The former Celtic keeper denied the Belgian winger again shortly after by rushing out to block his low effort as Mourinho’s side continued to turn the screw.
Loic Remy and Juan Cuadrado were introduced to help the home side find a late winner, with the latter wasting a good chance by dragging his poor left-footed shot wide of Forster’s goal. As the clock ticked into stoppage time Chelsea were given three bites at the cherry to snatch the win, but somehow didn’t take any. A deep corner was knocked back across the box to Remy and he smashed a right-footed strike at goal that was brilliantly turned away by Forster. The rebound fell to John Terry, whose first effort was blocked by Steven Davis before the same player inexplicably pulled his second strike wide. It was the last chance for either side as both settle for a hard-earned point.
Player Ratings (Out of 10)
Chelsea: Courtois (8), Ivanovic (6), Cahill (6), Terry (6), Azpilicueta (6), Matic (6), Fabregas (6), Willian (7), Oscar (5), Hazard (7), Diego Costa (7) Subs: Ramires (6), Remy (5), Cuadrado (5)
Southampton: Forster (8), Clyne (7), Fonte (7), Alderweireld (7), Bertrand (6), Wanyama (6), Schneiderlin (7), Davis (6), Tadic (7), Mane (7), Long (6) Subs: Ward-Prowse (5), Djuricic (5), Pelle (5)
Man of the Match: Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Both sides earn a point an deservedly so. The Saints were terrfic in the first half, picking Chelsea’s defence apart at will with free-flowing attacks and quick one-touch passes. Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic were a constant menace and both could have put Southampton out of sight with a bit more composure.
The second half, however, was a much different game as Mourinho’s men finally came out of their shell to apply pressure on the visitors. Diego Costa was back to his bullying best, even if his predatory instincts are still not quite at the same heights as before. Willian and Hazard’s influence grew after the break which coincided with Chelsea’s improvement and if it wasn’t for a towering performance from Fraser Forster then the Blues would have found a winner.
But ultimately, its a decent point for both as Chelsea extend their lead to six points with a game in hand and Southampton keep on the coat tails of a top four spot.