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Chelsea 0-1 Southampton: James Ward-Prowse scores superb free-kick as managerless Saints heap more pressure on Graham Potter

Report and free match highlights as James Ward-Prowse's expert free-kick secures vital 1-0 win for bottom-of-the-table Southampton at Stamford Bridge; pressure mounts on Chelsea boss Graham Potter as attack fires another blank

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton's win against Chelsea in the Premier League.

Graham Potter's torrid start as Chelsea head coach plumbed new lows after James Ward-Prowse's superb free-kick earned managerless Southampton a shock 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

Ward-Prowse dealt the decisive blow in first-half stoppage time with his 17th successfully converted free-kick as he closes in on David Beckham's record of 18 in the Premier League.

Pressure is mounting on Potter, who witnessed his side improve during the second period but fail to breach a stubborn Saints rearguard under interim boss Ruben Selles. Substitute Conor Gallagher was denied by Gavin Bazunu's outstretched fingertips deep into stoppage time.

Southampton remain bottom of the Premier League but this result will provide their survival hopes with a timely shot in the arm as Selles provided the perfect audition to be appointed the permanent successor to Nathan Jones.

Chelsea's attack was strengthened in January, but the Blues have now only scored twice in their last six games and stay 10th in the table, 10 points off the top four ahead of Newcastle's encounter with Liverpool later on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.

Player ratings

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga (6), Chilwell (5), Badiashile (5), Koulibaly (4), Azpilicueta (6), Kovacic (6), Fernandez (6), Madueke (5), Joao Felix (5), Mount (5), David Datro Fofana (6).

Subs: Chalobah (n/a), Mudryk (5), Sterling (7), Gallagher (n/a), Havertz (7), Wesley Fofana (6).

Southampton: Bazunu (8), Stuart Armstrong (7), Maitland-Niles (8), Bednarek (8), Kotchap (8), Perraud (8), Ward-Prowse (8), Lavia (8), Elyounoussi (6), Sulemana (6), Onuachu (6).

Subs: Lyanco (n/a), Adam Armstrong (5), Mara (5), Alcaraz (n/a), Diallo (n/a), Walcott (6).

Player of the match: James Ward-Prowse.

Same old story for Chelsea on Selles' big day

Chelsea's head coach Graham Potter gestures during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Southampton at the Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: Chelsea's head coach Graham Potter gestures

Prior to the game, Potter refused to blame bad luck for Chelsea's struggles in front of goal despite seeing his team score just twice in their previous five matches.

Only Crystal Palace in the Premier League's top 12 have scored fewer goals than Potter's side, with the lack of a recognised striker again made achingly clear as they drew a blank in Borussia Dortmund, their seventh scoreless outing in 12 games.

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  • Thiago Silva, Reece James and Marc Cucurella were missing completely having started their previous Premier League game at West Ham. Cesar Azpilicueta, Kalidou Koulibaly and Ben Chilwell came into the defence. Mateo Kovacic replaced the absent Ruben Loftus-Cheek while Mason Mount came in for Mykhailo Mudryk and David Fofana started up front in place of Kai Havertz.
  • Southampton were without Mohammed Salisu and James Bree, who both started the 2-1 home defeat to Wolves. Armel Bella-Kothchap came into defence as Ruben Selles went on the offensive. Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi were both recalled as Carlos Alcaraz dropped to the bench.

A cutting edge remained conspicuously absent during the first half on Saturday, where Southampton deservedly established a lead. Benoit Badiashile was caught in possession inside three minutes as Kamaldeen Sulemana's shot was saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga before Kalidou Koulibaly cleared Stuart Armstrong's shot off the line.

Chelsea had just half chances to reflect on at the break as Cesar Azpilicueta shot wide from David Datro Fofana's lay-off after Noni Madueke had tested the gloves of Bazunu - but the visitors drew first blood on the stroke of half-time through a familiar source.

James Ward-Prowse scores a free-kick against Chelsea
Image: Ward-Prowse scores a free-kick against Chelsea

It is now 17 Premier League free-kick goals for Ward-Prowse, who licked his lips after Azpilicueta had fouled Stuart Armstrong 25 yards out. Kepa had no chance as Ward-Prowse curled his shot over the wall and into the net, sparking boos at the interval from the home supporters.

Potter made a double change as Raheem Sterling and Wesley Fofana replaced the abject Koulibaly and David Datro Fofana. Sterling had an instant impact as his cross from the left narrowly evaded the leap of Mason Mount before his deflected effort veered narrowly wide.

But Saints continued to absorb Chelsea's best efforts as Mykhailo Mudryk and Kai Havertz were next to be summoned off the bench after the hour-mark. It did not take long for the substitutes to combine as Sterling borrowed the ball off Havertz, bamboozled Romeo Lavia before combining again with Havertz down the right only to see his shot blocked brilliantly by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Gavin Bazunu denies Cesar Azpilicueta
Image: Gavin Bazunu denies Cesar Azpilicueta

Sterling was looking to the skies once more when his header from Havertz's cross was brilliantly kept off the line by Romain Perraud before Lavia was back to deny him on the rebound. A lengthy stoppage of 10 minutes would only build the tension among the home fans following a nasty blow to the head of Azpilicueta, who was carried off on a stretcher.

Saints sprung on the counter as Theo Walcott's low cross was met by fellow replacement Adam Armstrong but his shot was kept out by Kepa. Gallagher wriggled free inside the Saints box to belatedly test Bazunu but after Mudryk volleyed wide, Southampton could toast an unlikely victory.

Raheem Sterling shoots at goal against Southampton
Image: Raheem Sterling shoots at goal against Southampton

Potter: I am not the problem

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Chelsea boss Graham Potter was disappointed but admitted there were 'positives to take' after his side lost 1-0 against Southampton at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea manager Graham Potter:

"After a 1-0 defeat at home, any criticism you get is understandable. We've had a tough period and lots of challenges in terms of integrating young players in the Premier League. When you don't get results, it can be tough. That's how it is. Some people will think I'm the problem.

"I don't think they're right but that doesn't mean they can't articulate their views. We took a step back in terms of our performance in the first half. The response in the second half was good but not good enough."

On the absence of Aubameyang, Potter added: "I would tell him to keep doing what he's doing. We made the decision to give David his opportunity with Raheem and Kai off the bench. When you don't score, I can understand the question [why was Aubameyang not on the bench]."

When asked if he was still the man for the job, and asked to explain the delay to speak to the media, Potter said: "There's no conspiracy. Sorry, I can't give you that. I always come in and speak to you guys and understand the questions. When we've lost 1-0 at home to Southampton, it isn't good enough because of the results we've had recently."

Bullish Selles: I am already a manager

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Southampton interim boss Ruben Selles said his side showed they can make games tough for any opponent after they won 1-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Interim Southampton boss Ruben Selles:

"It was a fantastic performance from the team. We moved liked a unit. We had a solid plan so I'm happy we gave ourselves the chance to win the game and to perform. We knew we would have a few moments in the game. It has been a very difficult year for us. You could see the reaction from the players after the blocks so I'm very happy for them.

"I identified with the principles that were there before. It's not about the manager so we used a lot of what was there. The players then put it together with the details we gave them.

"First of all, I am a manager [when asked if he is ready to step up and become manager]. But the second thing, it is not for me [to decide]. We showed what we can do after a fantastic result. I don't think too much about it [the relegation picture]. It's about our performance and how good we can be. Now, we're focused on Leeds. All I know is that if a team beats us, they will have to be very good as we will make it very hard.

"We're a team that shows character and spirit. It was more about the result today as we showed a performance and a standard that we must now continue. In order to become a winner in life, first of all you need to lose and to learn from your losses. It is a process. We don't know what will come next but we will now do all our best to win next week.

"The boys just threw me in! The game is about the players. I didn't want to lead them [the celebrations]. I just wanted to say thank you to the fans for their support."

Saints complete double - Opta stats

  • Southampton have completed the league double against Chelsea for the first time since the 1987-88 season.
  • Chelsea have lost at home to the team starting the day bottom of the Premier League table for the first time since April 2014 vs Sunderland (1-2).
  • Chelsea have lost three of their last six Premier League home games (W2 D1), as many defeats as in their previous 25 league games at Stamford Bridge combined (W13 D9).
  • Chelsea had 17 attempts at goal (5 on target), their highest number of shots without scoring at home in the Premier League since May 2021 against Arsenal (19).

Potter must remedy Chelsea's recurring theme

Chelsea's head coach Graham Potter reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Southampton at the Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: Potter continues to look for solutions at Chelsea

Ben Grounds at Stamford Bridge:

"At Chelsea, we are having to adopt a different criteria now as every sign of progress has to be welcomed. On Saturday, there could be little for the ever-positive Potter to cling to. Just more signs of players who are yet to come to terms with one another and a manager still trying to work out how to best use them.

"Twenty-one shots against Dortmund but no goals. Seventeen shots against Southampton, who had failed to keep a clean sheet since October, but no goals. Potter has bleated on about there being 'steps forward' but it is no wonder such repeated utterances are starting to grate on supporters.

"This is turning into a disastrous 2023 for him and for Chelsea, despite £315m spent in January. There was a 25-minute period at West Ham where the Fernandez-Mudryk-Felix trident combination purred but they collectively wilted after conceding.

Joao Felix is challenged by Romeo Lavia
Image: Joao Felix is challenged by Romeo Lavia

"That lack of character was on display in hostile surroundings at the Signal Iduna Park in midweek, however, where Chelsea in fact got better after falling behind. So we are still working out what to make of this brand new club, almost sculpted overnight and in mid-season.

"Getting Reece James and Ben Chilwell back up to speed will be so important to Chelsea's faint chances of gatecrashing the top-four race, but the former was missing here. His replacement and club captain Cesar Azpilicueta was forced off in worrying scenes after being caught on the head by Sekou Mara.

"This was a fourth goalless game in the Chelsea's last five. They have 23 league goals in 23 games, three fewer than Erling Haaland. Potter needs to find a way to remedy that, which will not be straightforward.

Kamaldeen Sulemana is challenged by Cesar Azpilicueta
Image: Kamaldeen Sulemana is challenged by Cesar Azpilicueta

"It is remarkable they have spent so much money, and none of it has been on a centre forward. We are beyond Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose face does not fit and has done little to suggest he is the solution.

"It is a recurring theme. They have scored four goals in 14 games. Potter has to find a way, and quickly."

Player of the match - James Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse celebrates after his free-kick puts Southampton 1-0 up against Chelsea
Image: Ward-Prowse showed his importance to Southampton

Southampton's James Ward-Prowse scored his 17th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League, moving just one behind record holder David Beckham (18), netting 13 of them away from home.

Selles added on his captain: "Any word I say about Prowsy wouldn't add any value. He has shown he is a leader in this dressing room, for this club and for this city. The challenge now is to support him. We took his goal and then we defended it with everything we could."


What's next?

Chelsea's next game is a huge one, with Graham Potter's side travelling to London rivals Tottenham on Sunday February 26, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 1.30pm.

Live Super Sunday

The Blues then host Leeds on Saturday March 4; kick-off 3pm.

Southampton also have a big game next weekend, with a trip to Leeds - another side that are battling against relegation - on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.

Saints then host Grimsby in the FA Cup on Wednesday March 1; kick-off 7.15pm.

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