Premier League: Chelsea forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Southampton
Last Updated: 29/12/14 8:54am
Chelsea were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Southampton as they failed to find a late winner at St Mary’s on Sunday.
Saido Mane had opened the scoring for Saints but Eden Hazard found an equaliser just before half-time and a Chelsea winner looked inevitable as they enjoyed total domination after the interval.
But despite Morgan Schneiderlin’s late sending-off, Ronald Koeman’s side held firm to claim a share of the points and underline their recent return to form after overcoming a run of five defeats in all competitions.
The result also ends a sequence of three successive victories for Jose Mourinho’s men but is enough to ensure that Chelsea will start 2015 clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.
Koeman had been forced to change his defence with Ryan Bertrand ineligible to feature against his parent club and that presented an opportunity for 19-year-old left-back Matt Targett.
But with Nathaniel Clyne injured, Southampton’s makeshift back four also came under considerable pressure down their right flank in the early stages as Chelsea pushed for an opener.
Fraser Forster did well to tip a left-wing corner away from the head of John Terry but the home side also went close when Jose Fonte almost got on the end of Mane’s header across goal.
In the 17th minute, the Senegal striker did make the breakthrough himself when Terry attempted to play the offside trap but was caught out as Dusan Tadic lofted the ball behind the defence.
Mane kept cool when one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois and helped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper for his fourth Premier League goal of the season as well as his second in three days.
Chelsea continued to dominate the ball without showing too many signs of coming up with an equaliser as Southampton defended with tenacity, while retaining a threat at the other end.
But just when it seemed as though Saints would reach the break with their lead intact, Hazard finally took advantage of the space out wide to level the scores in first-half stoppage time.
Picking up the ball on the left, he danced beyond the retreating Maya Yoshida before cutting inside past Toby Alderweireld and firing a low shot into the far corner of Forster’s net.
That this was Chelsea’s only shot on target in the opening 45 minutes was testament to the efforts of Koeman’s side but also an indication of the ruthless nature of the visitors.
Jose Mourinho turned to Willian for the second half with the Brazilian replacing the ineffective Andre Schurrle who’d failed to test Targett as might have been expected.
Cesc Fabregas soon did so when the young full-back appeared to clip him inside the Southampton penalty area but referee Anthony Taylor instead interpreted it as a dive and booked the Spaniard.
That seemed to raise the intensity of game and Hazard went close with his left foot on the hour mark but his snap shot on the turn flew just wide of the far post.
Koeman again tweaked his back four with Florin Gardos replacing Yoshida and Alderweireld moving to right-back as the pressure continued to build on the home team.
With a little over a quarter of an hour remaining, Mourinho showed his intent by bringing Didier Drogba on to replace John Obi Mikel in the search for three points.
The opportunity was almost presented to Diego Costa when substitute James Ward-Prowse’s careless back pass looked set to find the striker only for him to slip at the crucial moment.
Southampton even survived the loss of Schneiderlin with minutes remaining when the midfielder was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Fabregas as Chelsea looked to break.
But there were no further scares for the hosts as Chelsea failed to muster another shot on target and both sides end the year with something to show for their improving efforts throughout 2014.
Pundit Verdict – Graeme Souness
“We all knew it was a penalty and it was frustrating for Jose Mourinho but it was also not very good. In 90 minutes they had one shot on target. You can look at the stats that say they had 60 per cent possession but one shot on target and none in the second half? When you dominate the ball like that you’ve got to be peppering the opposition goal. They’ve not made Fraser Forster work.”
Southampton: Forster (7), Yoshida (5), Alderweireld (7), Fonte (7), Targett (7), Schneiderlin (6), Wanyama (7), Tadic (7), Davis (6), Mane (7), Pelle (6).
Subs: Ward-Prowse (5), Gardos (6), Long (5).
Chelsea: Courtois (6), Ivanovic (6), Cahill (6), Terry (5), Filipe Luis (4), Matic (7), Mikel (6), Schurrle (4), Fabregas (7), Hazard (8), Costa (6).
Subs: Willian (6), Drogba (6), Remy (5).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Eden Hazard