Chelsea aren’t finishing this season without a bit of heart-stopping entertainment. The Blues again fail to keep a clean sheet, giving their supporters heart palpitations during a competitive first half before finishing off Southampton in comfortable fashion in the second.
Gary Cahill’s goal just before the half proved decisive for Chelsea, dispatching Southampton by a 4-2 score line to push their lead at the top to seven points and put the pressure on Tottenham to respond against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night.
Chelsea’s worrying trend at home has again emerged. Not only did the Blues fail to keep a clean sheet, but once again, the home side got off to a flying start by scoring an early goal, just to see visitors settle and equalise midway through the first half.
This time, it was Eden Hazard putting Chelsea ahead when he swept home Diego Costa’s pull back to give the Blues the lead after just five minutes.
It looked for a minute as Chelsea had learned from their mistakes against Crystal Palace and press their advantage, and Hazard nearly had his second when he fired wide from a flick-on from Costa.
Southampton sent nerves around Stamford Bridge with every set piece. James Ward-Prowse’s pinpoint deliveries gave Chelsea’s defence all sorts of issues, and Southampton’s equaliser came from a corner.
A misplaced clearance from Cesar Azpilicueta was retrieved by Manolo Gabbiadini whose shot was parried by Thibault Courtois straight into the path of former Chelsea player Oriol Romeu who couldn’t miss from close range.
Southampton looked to control the match, but caught a sucker punch right before the half. N’Golo Kante picked out Marcos Alonso with a cross, and Cahill rose to meet Alonso’s header back across goal and send it past Fraser Forster to give the Blues a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Costa’s goal scoring had dried up in recent months, but his second half brace provided a comfortable lead for his side.
First, Cesc Fabregas picked out Costa with a cross from a short corner. The Brazilian-born striker outmuscled Ryan Bertrand to nod the ball past Forster to give the Blues a 3-1 lead.
Late in the match, Costa showed his skill, playing one-twos with both Hazard and Pedro before shimmying past the Southampton defence to slide the ball into the bottom corner.
But Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will still have a few gripes, as Southampton got their second goal when Bertrand rose above Cahill to score with a header from a Cedric cross, thought it was too little too late for the Saints.