In Saturday’s early kick-off in the Premier League, Chelsea survived a scare against relegation-threatened Southampton as they had to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Olivier Giroud’s brace off the bench led the revival, with Eden Hazard getting the other one. These goals came after Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek had given the Saints a strong lead.
Not at the Races
For the first ten minutes of the game, it looked as though it would be the Blues doing all the pressing but Southampton, who entered at odds as long of 7/1 with Winner to triumph, rapidly grew into the match. The hosts took advantage after 20 minutes as ex-Chelsea fullback Ryan Bertrand went flying down the left wing and evaded the challenge of Cesar Azplicueta. He then pulled the ball back to the waiting Tadic, who accepted the gift and rolled it into the back of the net.
The game turned quite scrappy at that point, which played into the hands of the Saints. Alvaro Morata started pushing and shoving, then Pierre-Emile Højbjerg began to dish out some heavy tackles. However, it was a nasty tackle from Marcos Alonso that stole the half-time headlines as he possibly should’ve seen red for stamping on the calf of Shane Long. Replays showed Mike Dean must have seen the incident and how the Spaniard escaped a card of any sort was very surprising.
Antonio Conte came out of the dressing room much earlier than his players and the early signs from the second-half showed that it had a negative effect. Fewer than ten minutes after the restart, Long almost doubled his team’s advantage with a superb solo run and a very fortunate finish that almost dipped over the top of Thibaut Courtois.
Five minutes later, the visitors were two behind thanks to Jan Bednarek’s lovely finish on his full Premier League debut. James Ward-Prowse sent an unbelievably good whipped ball towards the back post, where the Polish defender was placed to plant an accomplished half-volley past Courtois.
Giroud and Pedro were then thrown on in a desperate attempt for Chelsea to get back into the game on the hour mark. It was the Frenchman who did just that, meeting a perfectly weighted Alonso cross with his head and steering it past Alex McCarthy inside his near post to grab his first league goal for his new side.
The Blues’ pressure was relentless at this stage and it wasn’t long before the sides were level. Willian managed to engineer a yard of space against Cedric and flashed the ball across the box where Hazard brilliantly killed it dead first time and sent it rocketing towards the top corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
The unbelievable comeback was completed just eight minutes after Chelsea’s first goal. It was Giroud on the scoresheet for the second time; a different finish to the first. This time, it was a sublime left-footed finish into the bottom corner after pinball in the Southampton penalty area – heartbreaking for Mark Hughes’ very spirited side, who were very good value for their original two-goal lead.
It was a great turnaround for Conte and his players, one that was much needed with their poor form since the turn of the new year. Although, conceding two goals against a team in the relegation zone shouldn’t be happening and it still highlights the weaknesses in the Chelsea squad.