A Nervy Ninety Minutes, But Still Three Points
Chelsea took on Southampton in a game at Stamford Bridge that saw them start as favourites. A midweek victory for the Blues over Huddersfield and a heavy defeat for the Saints at Leicester meant Antonio Conte`s men went into the game the more confident.
That however, didn`t stop Southampton going at Chelsea from the start. Before the game Conte had said he thought Chelsea may struggle and in the first ten minutes that was certainly the case. Southampton could easily have taken the lead when a ball played across the box was intercepted right in front of the goal by Gary Cahill. A combination of quick feet and a bit of luck saw him hoof the ball upfield to safety.
With that out of the way Chelsea began to work their way into the game. Conte had started the game in a 3-4-3 formation and without a recognised striker, preferring to use Eden Hazard as his attacking focal point.
There was plenty of good interplay when Chelsea were attacking, and Fraser Forster was forced into making some fine saves. Southampton hadn`t come to the Bridge to sit back though. When they went forward they were very much looking to score.
As the half approached it`s conclusion Pedro nearly broke the deadlock when he fired low shot to Forster`s right that rebounded back off the post. That effort was a sign though, a sign of more to come.
Into injury time, a foul on Eden Hazard resulted in a yellow card for Maya Yoshida and a free-kick 25 yards from the centre of the goal. Dead ball specialist Marcos Alonso cheekily drifted his kick low around the wall and the ball crept in low to Forster`s right. Defenders never learn. With that the half time whistle sounded. A somewhat frustrating half ended on a high.
There were no changes at half time and the first 15 minutes were simply a continuation of the first 45. Chelsea probed and Southampton sat deep. Any chances that came were shots from distance, none of which troubled Forster.
With John Terry watching in the stands it was still Chelsea who looked the likelier to score.
Southampton bought on Charlie Austin and almost instantly improved their chances of scoring, he beat Chelsea`s offside trap but Tibo made the necessary save.
Conte`s first change of the afternoon saw Cesc Fabregas replace Pedro. That change almost bought a goal as well, a Fabregas ball into Hazard saw hom slot home, but he was just offside.
Another 20 yard shot from Alonso called Forster into action again, but the 1-0 lead was looking dangerous, Chelsea needed a second goal. With that Conte replaced Hazard with Morata and with the Blues susceptible to a late goal, was the Italian being wise? We would have to sweat it out.
The final change for Chelsea came in the final ten minutes when Davids Zappacosta replaced Victor Moses. With the game edging towards its end, Chelsea tried to play out time with the aid of some short corners.
With Marcos Alonso one game short of a match ban, having already collected four yellow cards, he was booked for time wasting on one of those corners, a cunning plan indeed. His ban will be for the EFL/Carabao cup game against Bournemouth on Wednesday evening. Chelsea held out for the important three points and once again drew level with Manchester United.
Next up for Chelsea is that Carabao Cup game at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday 20th December, kick off 19:45. That`s followed with a tricky trip up to our old friends at Everton for another early Saturday kick off.