It was the last game of the year 2014 for both the teams when a 4th placed Southampton welcomed a high-flying Chelsea at St. Mary just 48 hours after both the teams played their last game.
With Manchester City breathing just below our neck, Chelsea had every intention to end their year on a high, while Saints looked to cement their place further into the top four with at least a point against the league leaders.
Jose Mourinho, given the hectic December schedule, made 3 changes to his starting line-up that defeated West Ham at Stamford Bridge with Luis, Mikel and Schurrle coming in for Azpilicueta, Oscar and Willian respectively.
Let’s get on with the initial reaction now to see how the game panned out for Chelsea:
– Chelsea started the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation as Fab slotted into the No. 10 spot while Mikel alongside Matic started in the CM position. Chelsea immediately tried to put pressure on the home side as Luis and Hazard combined well on the left wing, but the Saints were up for the task as they defended well in numbers.
– It was Southampton who had the first real chance to get onto the scoresheet in the 14th minute from a corner but a vital block from John Terry evaded the danger for the Blues. Cahill made another vital tackle couple of minutes later to deny a Tadic through ball.
– Southampton had started to pile pressure on the Blues and it was Mane who put the host 1-0 up in the 17th minute from a yet another Tadic through ball which saw the winger one on one with Courtois. It was Terry who failed to close down Mane and also blew up the offside trap as Tadic’s chip freed him upfront and the winger did the rest by comfortably slotting the ball past Courtois. Southampton 1-0 Chelsea.
– Half an hour passed and Chelsea still searched for their equalizer as the Blues dominated the possession but found it difficult to break open the Saints defence. The Saints put real pressure on the Blues in their own penalty box as they didn’t allow the Chelsea players to get away with their shots thus making life difficult for us.
– Southampton did really well with their pressing game as they didn’t allow players like Hazard and Fabregas to spend much time on the ball as a result Costa had to drop deep. Mourinho, consequently, switched Hazard on the right-hand side to go up against the 19-year-old Matt Targett as Schurrle moved to the left, but the result didn’t change much for the Blues.
– Take a bow Eden Hazard! What a talent he is! The Belgian did brilliantly to score an equalizer in the extra time, to end the first-half 1-1 for the Blues. It’s in the game like these when you wish for your star player to rise to the occasion and Hazard did just that. It was Fabregas who found the Belgian with a long ball and the winger did very well to lose Yoshida with sheer pace and cut inside rounding off couple of defenders to put it handsomely past Forster. Chelsea 1-1 Southampton.
– It was a brilliant first half and Hazard’s goal in the extra time put us right back into this game. An interesting and charged up second half awaited us as both teams looked to end their year on a high.
– The second half started with Jose Mourinho subbing off Schurrle, who was rather invisible in the first half, in favor of Willian possibly to track back and help Ivanovic contain Tadic who proved a constant threat down that flank.
– Fabregas was booked for diving in the 55th minute and I can’t emphasise enough on how stupid that decision was! The Spaniard was clearly fouled inside the box by Targett and instead of receiving a penalty, Fabregas was booked instead for a diving simulation. Surely a case of Bad officiating.
– Southampton did really well to mount bodies behind the ball as the Blues riled up the pressure on the home side. It were waves after waves of attack from the Chelsea players as they pushed the Saints on the backfoot while Southampton looked content to sit deep and catch us on the counter. Hazard proved to be the catalyst of all the attacks as the Belgian combined brilliantly with Fabregas and Willian while Luis did brilliantly on the left-hand side.
– For all our dominance and possessions we struggled to get past the Saints defence and, as a result, Mourinho introduced Drogba in place of Mikel in the 74th minute to provide that extra threat up front. Having Drogba meant, we reverted to a 4-1-4-1 formation with Matic as the lone holder in the middle and Fabregas with the licence to roam around in the pitch.
– For all the hustle we managed in the Southampton’s half, our players were shy to take on their shots and whenever we did, the Saints did brilliantly to put their body behind the ball.
– Both teams tried really hard to grab the winner as Schneiderlin was sent off for a late challenge on Fabregas in the 89th minute. Remy was introduced for the final few minutes as Mourinho searched for the winner.
– There was no twist in the tale in the injury time as the Saints held off the leaders for a 1-1 draw. It was a good end to the year for the Blues as we are three point clear of Manchester City after 19 games played. Next stop, White Hart Lane. Till then, KTBFFH!
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt