Rampant Chelsea turn on the afterburners against Southampton
Chelsea beat Southampton 4-2 at Stamford Bridge tonight, and moved another step closer to winning the Premier League.
The Blues came into the game high on confidence after the weekend’s win, and they showed it with an early goal. Eden Hazard burst into the box and steered a clever shot – his 15th this season in the league – into the far bottom corner after a great pass from Diego Costa.
The winger could have had another not long after, but another Costa set up was wasted when the midfielder spooned his effort over after rushing his shot.
It all looked good for Chelsea, but from nowhere, Southampton were level. After a well organised set-piece pattern, Gabbiadini fired the ball off Courtois and Romeu was able to scramble to his feet in time to knock the ball over the line.Southampton’s ten days off had clearly been well spent on learning routines.
Any illusions Chelsea had had of an easy win and a clean sheet were shattered, and the Saints fan raised in song as the Bridge fell quiet. More threatening corners arrived and Cesar Azpilicueta had to raise the mood by chasing the ball the length of the pitch.
The crowd urged further attacks, and it was player of the year winner N’Golo Kante who responded. It was as though the Frenchman was directly replying to critics of his PFA win as he surged down the right in a run littered with swerves that saw him eventually hook a cross back that was headed clear by a Southampton defender.
Further Chelsea pressure saw Matic, whom the crowd had been urging to shoot all night, hit a shot at Forster that the England keeper tipped out for a corner. Then Costa and Hazard linked up well on the end of a long pass from Fabregas, with the Belgian scuffing another shot, this time into Forster’s body.
The home team took the initiative after conceding, but were kept cautious by a rapid Southampton team that always looked threatening on the break and at set pieces.
With halftime on the horizon Chelsea won a corner, it ended up with Kante on the end of the box, and the midfielder launched another good long ball into the box, Marcos Alonso’s well won header flew back across the box and the ball ended up in the back of the net off the forehead of returning captain Gary Cahill.
After halftime the game resumed with its same high tempo, and Chelsea were soon rewarded for their bright work down both flanks. From a corner, Hazard and Fabregas worked the Spaniard into room outside the Southampton box. The Spaniard put a tidy ball into the box and Diego Costa was too strong for his marker, winning the header to put the Blues two goals clear.
The songs started at the Bridge and the this time there was little sense that the Blues were going to relinquish their lead again. Claude Puel’s men continued to threaten from corners, and his opposite number was clearly furious at times at his own team’s inability to control their own area when James Ward Prowse was able to put balls into the box.
As time wore on the tricks began to come out, with Fabregas, Costa and Hazard linking up several times in attack. N’Golo Kante had a wonderful chance to add a fourth with ten minutes to go, smashing a shot after a rapid counterattack into the body of the goalkeeper.
The next glorious moment came with just a few minutes to go, with Antonio Conte giving his captain John Terry a few minutes on the pitch at the Stamford Bridge for the first time since November in the Premier League. The ovation was, unsurprisingly, wonderful.
Not to be outdone, the Blues unveiled a final masterpiece. Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas linked up with Eden Hazard once again, the three of them inverting a tiring Southampton defence and opening a path for the Brazilian to slash a second goal past Fraser Forster.
Southampton got a consolation goal through former Blue Ryan Bertrand to ensure that nobody is taking it easy this week in training. But that was it from the beaten Saints.
It was 4-2 in the end to a great game for Chelsea, and that will do just fine as they cross another potentially difficult game off their list.