Chelsea’s Premier League frustrations continued as they were pegged back from a 1-0 lead to be beaten 3-1 by an impressive Southampton.
The biggest team news of the the day was the return of John Terry to the starting line up, while Oscar and Falcao both started. Ramires, one of the few bright spots in recent weeks, anchored the midfield with Cesc Fabregas, with Nemanja Matic making way for the rejuvenated Brazilian.
A run of three consecutive wins felt a long time ago after recent hiccups against lowly Newcastle, Porto and now the Saints, though an early Willian free kick found put us in the lead and on the front foot. It was hoped that a goal after 10 minutes – the Brazil international’s second of the season – would settle any nerves after our recent run of the results, and in truth, it felt that way in what a was largely even but always comfortable first half for the defending champions.
Eden Hazard was a particular thorn in the South Coast side, as he carved out several opportunities but couldn’t find the killer touch needed to make our bright patches count. Oscar and Fabregas combined neatly to test Saints stopper Maarten Stekelenburg but to no avail.
For such a diminutive figure, Ramires was often at the heart of the action for better of worse, displaying impressive strength and presence, but was eventually booked for being somewhat too present, to put it diplomatically. That seemed to be the flashpoint for Southampton to dominate the final stretches of the first half. They eventually got their reward after some good play from Graziano Pelle teed up Northern Ireland international Steven Davis to hit a fine effort past a despairing Asmir Begovic.
The next big talking point came some nine minutes into the second half, as Falcao was booked for diving, rather than seeing us being given the penalty the home fans clamoured for. Some may call it a case of six and two threes as Falcao was definitely caught by the goalkeeper, however did seem to be on his way down before the contact actually came in. The referee, obviously in some doubt, decided against giving the penalty which would have seen us retake the lead.
How crucial that decision proved to be as just four minutes later, Southampton lead. Sadio Mane left John Terry for dust and cannoned a shot towards Begovic, which he got contact on but not enough to stop it from crossing the line, giving the visitors the advantage.
They struck the killer touch soon after, as Graziano Pelle got the goal – deserved for his performance in truth, a constant threat as the lone striker and was often involved in some good hold-up and link-up play. A slack pass from Eden Hazard saw Southampton counter with great speed and the Italian swept home to give Southampton a 3 goal lead and all three points.
The second half performance in particular was pretty flat and in all honesty, you’d be hard pushed to find many Chelsea fans begrudging the result. Southampton were hungrier and took advantage of what was a shaky defence. The first half performance gave us the building blocks to gain victory, even with the equalizer taken into consideration, however it was the final 45 which really let us down and as we weakened Southampton grew in stature and confidence and looked good value for the win.
Sitting now 16th in the table, Mourinho has vowed the only way he will leave the club will be if he is sacked. After that performance and other recent games, the odds of that happening will have drastically shortened.