Post by Football News on Dec 16, 2017 18:47:19 GMT
Chelsea 1 - 0 Southampton
Marcos Alonso scorcher secures Chelsea nervy victory over Southampton
Home team scorers Marcos Alonso 45 +2:16
Marcos Alonso’s delightful free-kick, his fourth league goal of the season, earned Chelsea the points against Southampton.
The home side created numerous chances in a game that was played at full throttle throughout. Saints had their opportunities in the second half on the counterattack and they made a substantial contribution to the match, but Chelsea deserved the victory and have collected six points out of six since last weekend’s disappointing defeat to West Ham.
Mauricio Pellegrino made five changes after Southampton’s poor showing in their 4-1 defeat to Leicester at St Mary’s in midweek. The Argentine dropped Charlie Austin to the bench and introduced centre half Jack Stephens, matching his hosts’ back three. Chelsea meanwhile made just one change from the team that cruised past Huddersfield, captain Gary Cahill returning in place of Antonio Rüdiger.
Calm and confident from the off, Chelsea looked to work the ball through their rotating front three of Willian, Pedro and, at the heart of it all, Eden Hazard. Southampton’s plans were to stifle but weren’t helped by the enforced removal of Cédric Soares after just 17 minutes. The wing-back was unable to shake off a kick to his ankle from Cahill, James Ward-Prowse slotted into his position and Chelsea picked on him from that point on.
Chelsea created half a dozen chances down the left before they finally opened the scoring and the pressure was relentless from the half-hour mark. Hazard’s cutback found Willian, who was robbed by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg just as he was pulling the trigger six yards out. Alonso brought a reflex save from Fraser Forster and Pedro hit the keeper’s right-hand post. Tiémoué Bakayoko’s shot was deflected wide from just outside the box before Cahill saw one skid past the post from even further.
As the first half reached its third minute of injury time, Hazard span past Maya Yoshida and drew a foul 25 yards from goal. The Japanese defender was booked for the hack but Alonso punished him harder. From almost straight in front of the left-hand post the Italian whipped his free-kick first outside then low inside it, a late bounce eluding the diving Forster. It was a wonderful strike and Chelsea deserved their lead.
Both sides emerged for the second half with renewed vigour, Saints hoping to continue the intensity necessary to stay in the game. On the hour Pellegrino summoned Austin to the fray and the striker almost equalised with Saints’ first real chance of the game a minute later. It came from a smart piece of play from Hojbjerg, the Dane pivoting on the ball in midfield and poking a through-ball with the outside of his boot in the striker’s path. Austin took a touch, looked up and hit the ball with the inside of his boot towards the far post, only to see Thibaut Courtois bound to his left and turn the ball clear.
The temperature began to rise again. Hazard had a beautiful strike into the corner of the net struck off in the 69th minute after the substitute Cesc Fàbregas, whose flick had set up the Belgian, was adjudged offside by the tightest of margins. Minutes later Alonso struck from range again, forcing Forster into another punched save.
Hazard was withdrawn for Álvaro Morata, who too had an immediate impact as a substitute, stepping inside Wesley Hoedt before firing the ball into Forster as the keeper blocked his near post. The move continued, ending with Alonso heading just wide at the far post. Up the other end Austin had a toe poke claimed by Courtois and Hoedt forced another save with a shot on the turn.
The action kept on flowing. Fàbregas was unlucky again, this time as he reacted to a cute free-kick to wriggle free in the box. Stephens clearly shoved the Spaniard but he stayed on his feet and even nutmegged Forster, only to see the ball dribble resolutely along the goal-line. Austin then made himself a nuisance again, flicking a cross from Stephens into the side-netting.
The chances carried on into added time, Forster frustrating Fàbregas one final time as again he punched to send the Spaniard’s left-foot volley clear.