Chelsea failed to take full advantage of Manchester City’s defeat to Burnley, drawing 1-1 with a dogged and determined Southampton side, repeating the scoreline of the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Mourinho showed faith in the defence that drew with PSG, with Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta all starting. In fact, the only change made from the Champions League exit was Willian coming in for Ramires; Matic, Fabregas, Oscar, Hazard and Diego Costa all retained their place. Fraser Forster started in goal for the visitors, with Nathaniel Clyne at right back, Jose Fonte and Toby Alderweireld in central defence, and European Champion Ryan Bertrand at left back – having made his loan switch to Southampton permanent in January. Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Shane Long also started for Southampton.
Southampton started brightly and their tactics were clear from the beginning. The south coast side were set up to press Chelsea aggressively in midfield, launching quick and direct attacks when they won possession. It was Chelsea who took the lead, however, with Diego Costa scoring after ten minutes – his first goal since January. The ball was well worked by Hazard, who gave it to Ivanovic on the right wing, the Serbian right-back then put in an inch-perfect cross to set up an easy header for Costa.
Southampton didn’t let the first goal dampen their spirits, and they nearly equalised a couple of minutes later when they got in behind Chelsea’s right hand side, but Courtois saved Mane’s shot well.
They didn’t have to wait much longer to peg Chelsea back. Mane drove into Chelsea’s box and went down after a coming together with Ivanovic and Matic. Although Matic appeared to take a lot of the ball, referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty and booked the Chelsea midfielder for his challenge. Tadic struck the ball down the middle and Courtois couldn’t keep it out.
The tackle to concede the penalty was the type of challenge that Chelsea will feel hard done by to be penalised for, especially seeing as five minutes later they should have had a penalty of their own. Although Ivanovic’s fall in Southampton’s box was quite theatrical, replays showed he was unfairly clipped on his heel. Southampton were impressive for the rest of the first half, carving out a number of chances that gave Courtois plenty to do.
Ramires was introduced early in the second half, replacing Matic who on another day may have been sent off for a second bookable offence.
Chelsea started playing much better in the second half, keeping possession and making a number of chances. Costa nearly got a second goal in the 56th minute, diverting Willian’s shot onto the post, and he could have also had a penalty for an incident that was identical to Southampton’s, but Mike Dean showed inconsistency in his decision making. Hazard started pulling the strings and went on a number of his trademark runs, clocking up a few nutmegs in the process. Chelsea were kept at bay though by some last-ditch defending and good goalkeeping from the Saints’ perspective.
Oscar should have given Chelsea the lead on 75 minutes, having been set up by an incisive Fabregas pass, but his shot was saved. Southampton started dropping deeper and deeper, giving Chelsea the vast majority of possession, but the Blues couldn’t find an effective finish. Remy and Cuadrado replaced Oscar and Willian in the final ten minutes.
A last minute chance saw Chelsea come extremely close to getting a winner, but the ball was blocked on the line twice in quick succession and was eventually fired wide by Terry. Cuadrado and Hazard were both guilty of taking on too many defenders in the closing stages, giving the Southampton defence more chances to clear the ball.
Considering the second half performance and the two penalty incidents, Chelsea will feel unlucky to not have won the game (Fraser Forster was awarded man of the match), but given Manchester City’s defeat to Burnley yesterday, a point against one of the harder games to play in the title run in is not a bad point to earn.