Chelsea continued their great form in the Premier League with a convincing win against Southampton at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon.
Goals from Eden Hazard, Ross Barkley and Alvaro Morata were more than enough to see off Mark Hughes’ side on the South coast which keeps the Blues level on points at the top with Manchester City and Liverpool.
Hazard the difference at half-time
Barkley was brought into the starting XI in place of Mateo Kovacic following a call-up to the England squad while Morata had to settle for a place on the bench behind Olivier Giroud. Some good link-up play between the visitors’ fluid attacking line-up created some early half-chances but nothing came from them other than a host of corners.
The Saints were penned back in their own half for the majority of the first-half until some pressing high up the pitch got the supporters in the stadium excited. Manolo Gabbiadini had a shot on target that was a better chance than most of Chelsea’s inside 25 minutes before Danny Ings missed what can only be described as a sitter.
Ryan Bertrand flashed a fantastic cross across the six-yard box but the on-loan Liverpool striker volleyed his effort miles over the bar. The Blues went up the other end and had a penalty shout turned down which looked correct at first but on further viewing showed that Giroud had beaten Wesley Hoedt to the ball before being wiped out in the box.
But just two minutes later, it didn’t matter as Chelsea took the lead. Barkley stole the ball 30 yards from the Southampton goal before sliding the ball into Hazard on the edge of the box who took one touch and fired the ball into the net, to the surprise of absolutely no one in St Mary’s.
That goal seemed to have taken the stuffing out of the home side as they sat even deeper almost expecting another barrage of opponent attacks. However, the scoreline stayed at 1-0 as the sides went in at half-time.
Within five minutes of the restart, Bertrand had the chance to level the score against his former employers but after meeting Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s deep cross, the left-back couldn’t keep his shot below the crossbar. Just before the hour mark, the Blues went two goals to the good as a result of a free-kick earned by Hazard between the halfway line and the 18-yard box.
Willian aimed it towards the back post where it was met acrobatically by Giroud and sent across the face of goal, giving Barkley a simple tap-in for his first goal in the blue of Chelsea. Then Morata was introduced hoping to continue his form from Thursday night. But when Hazard played him clean through on goal, Alex McCarthy telegrammed where he was going and saved very comfortably, it seemed like another one of ‘those days’ for the Spaniard.
Although, as the game entered stoppage time, he silenced all his haters, deftly chipping the ball over the onrushing Southampton keeper following Hazard’s inch-perfect pass through the defence. Another goal and assist for the Belgian capped off a brilliant performance but the afternoon belonged to Barkley who had enjoyed his best match in a Blues shirt since his move from Everton back in January.
The international break dominates the next couple of weeks but it’s the visit of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United up next for Maurizio Sarri and his troops which could turn out to be a very interesting game with the ‘Special One’ under significant pressure.