Chelsea beat Southampton to keep unbeaten record intact
It was a contest of who utilised the greater percentage of chances. Though the most inviting ones fell Southampton’s way, they couldn’t grab any of them. Chelsea, on the other hand, made sure the home-side was punished every time a chance popped up.
Eden Hazard capped off yet another Chelsea win enriched by his own brilliance by putting substitute Morata through in a one-on-one with McCarthy with the Spaniard pulling out a neat finish by when the tension had long been lanced.
The riot was started by the same man itself when Barkley’s high press cost Hojbjerg possession outside the Southampton box, who then slid the ball through to Hazard with the Belgian scoring his seventh league goal of the season. Bertrand, however, was partially culpable, who instead of closing in, held his position towards the sidelines.
The home-side apparently lacked the intent and the determination to come out on top of this clash from the outset. And, it seemed like a training drill as Southampton was attacking in numbers and then suddenly sitting back relaxed allowing Chelsea to come back at them with vengeance.
The defence terribly looked out of shape and indeed, Chelsea repeatedly drove into their penalty area quite often with ease and grace.
Amidst all this, the best chance of the entire match fell in Southampton’s way as Redmond slipped a pass behind the outnumbered Azpilicueta for his counterpart Bertrand to dispatch an inch-perfect cross from the left only for Danny Ings to sky it high from 3 yards.
The visiting Chelsea fans behind the left-hand were continuing to serenade their new manager and it only got louder in the second half. So did Chelsea’s performance.
Mark Hughes shifted to a 4-4-2 formation after the interval substituting Romeu in for the centre-back Bednarek and the impact was immediate.
But, as was the story of the evening, Southampton passed up yet another golden opportunity. With Bertrand lurking into the Chelsea box, Hojbjerg delivered a cross deep at the far post only for his captain to sky it high, this time though from a tough angle, leaving his side saddled by a sense of dread as to what might follow.
And, what followed was nothing short of a drubbing. The pressure was now getting to the home-side as was seen when Yoshida let a simple pass sneak through him for Willian to accept gleefully but was eventually rendered futile. Had he passed it to Hazard on the right rather than pushing to Kovacic on the left, it might have had added more to the scoreboard.
Southampton simply were unable to contain the visitors, and in the process, racked up six yellow cards, thus inviting FA to impose a fine on them. A similar situation helped Chelsea double their advantage. Ings brought Hazard down in a desperate bid to stop one of the many Chelsea counters, but it would eventually cost them more than a foul.
Criticizing Giroud for not scoring often would be to omit his beautiful link-up play, ability to hold possession and pull off the most subtle touches and flicks at crunch areas.
Ross Barkley filled in the midfield in place of Kovacic and in the process, got his first ever goal for the club. The credit to Chelsea’s second, however, should go to Giroud for his acrobatics to hand the Englishman his first Chelsea goal on a platter.
The man who has scored the most goals by a visitor at the St. Mary's Stadium (5) quickly went around the wall to meet with Willian’s free-kick wide of the far post to bicycle it back across goal for Barkley to tap it into the net.
With Southampton now surely staring down the barrel, there was some late urgency injected as Kepa was forced into two brilliant saves.
Last Saturday against Liverpool, the Chelsea keeper was undone by Daniel Sturridge’s exhilarating strike. But here, with about 10 minutes of regular time remaining, he did justice to the most expensive keeper tag by getting the decisive fingertips to adjust to the dip and swerve to force a similar long-range strike from Nathan Redmond onto the crossbar.
This is what makes a world-class talent - the ability to learn from previously committed mistakes and to change the script on their own. Moments later, Danny Ings measured his shot to send it into the top corner only to watch Kepa fly to his right to parry it away.
Jorginho, as usual, was highly instrumental at the heart of the midfield, a player who is always racking up the passes and even play a 40-yard pass and then scurry upfield in support of his teammate to collect a return. Similarly, he played Hazard into space with a beautifully controlled volley in the dying minutes, who then carved it through only for Morata to fluff his lines in front of goal.
But the wait wasn’t long. The same duo combined in injury time as Hazard skedaddled forward twisting his hips past the Saints, again put Morata through in front of McCarthy, but this time he didn’t disappoint. He was up to the mark, sprinted forward to get to the ball and finished with a neat dink to score twice in 4 days.