Post by Football News on Apr 14, 2018 17:38:57 GMT
Southampton 2-3 Chelsea
Olivier Giroud seals Chelsea’s comeback win to stun struggling Southampton
Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score twice as Chelsea stormed back from two goals down to send Southampton one step closer to relegation.
A first-half strike from Dusan Tadic was added to by Jan Bednarek on his first start for the Saints, as Mark Hughes looked like claiming a vital first win as the Saints manager. But a decisive intervention by Antonio Conte led to three goals in eight minutes for Chelsea, with Giroud’s brace coming either side of a thumping finish from Eden Hazard.
Before Conte and Giroud made their presence felt Chelsea looked to have been meandering to another underwhelming performance that has typified their form since the turn of the year.
Southampton looked like they had the spirit and confidence to resist the siren call of the Championship but while three points for Chelsea leaves Champions League qualification still a distance away, Saints have only one win in 20 Premier League games and remain three points from safety with five games left.
Southampton’s opening goal typified their first half performance; simple enough but made effective through determination. Ryan Bertrand hardly concealed his intentions. The Saints captain was going to run at César Azpilicueta, from his own half, and invited Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to find him with a pass. The Dane duly accepted the invitation and Bertrand won the race and advanced into the Chelsea box. There he held off a second challenge from Azpilicueta and played a pass with the outside of his boot that evaded the advancing Thibaut Courtois. Tadic anticipated faster than the defence and fired the ball low past Gary Cahill into an empty net.
This was the sort of spirit Hughes had celebrated in Southampton’s previous performance against Arsenal and it satisfied the St Mary’s crowd too. They sang Tadic’s name, a reminder the forward is popular with the home support, if not always his managers. The Serb was the fulcrum for Saints’ attacking ambitions. Four minutes after the goal he teed up Shane Long to cross to the far post where Courtois only just beat Cédric Soares to the ball.
Chelsea’s best chance of the first half fell to Alvaro Morata who met Davide Zappacosta’s back-post header with a flicked effort that went over Alex McCarthy’s bar. It was a chance reflective of their own insipid showing. Chelsea had clearly arrived happy to concede possession and exploit Saints on the counter. When handed possession, they were ponderous and resorted far too often to flicks and feints no better than hopeful. They lacked both the aggression and imagination to assert themselves.
Such a level of performance was unlikely to be met by silence by Conte and Chelsea upped their efforts in the second half. They pressed, interacted and were more determined in their passing.
Within 15 minutes, however, they were another goal down. Once more it was simple; a James Ward-Prowse free-kick 35 yards from goal, floating all the way to the back post and beyond a sprawling Cahill, where Bednarek was waiting to volley home. The centre-half has hardly played since arriving in the summer but he was assured enough to dispatch the ball cleanly beyond Courtois.
Conte responded immediately. He replaced Zappacosta and Morata with Pedro and Giroud and changed shape, providing the rare sighting of a Chelsea back four. In the 70th minute, the changes bore fruit as Giroud muscled his way onto a Marcus Alonso cross and powered a header inside McCarthy’s right-hand post. Again determination was the deciding factor.
Now came a test of nerves for Saints, who were suddenly penned into their box. Chelsea’s bolstered forward line were now more assertive. Five minutes after Giroud scored, Willian crossed low from the left to find Hazard on the penalty spot. He took a touch and sidefooted the ball high into the net.
The game was decided another three minutes later when Willian played a free-kick short to Pedro and his cross was knocked back across goal. Giroud was waiting again and the striker who has such a reputation for determining matches as a substitute, fired low with his left foot past McCarthy.