Chelsea were unable to break down a strong Southampton backline and had to settle for a goalless draw in their first match of 2019.
Alvaro Morata had a goal wrongly disallowed in the second half but the Saints ensured they would pick up yet another strong result against a top six side thanks to a heroic display from their goalkeeper, Angus Gunn.
It was, in fact, his debut for the visitors as Ralph Hassenhüttl made a whole host of changes to the side beaten by Manchester City whilst Maurizio Sarri was forced into the swap of Morata for Giroud, who was injured in the win at Crystal Palace.
It was a tame start to the game at Stamford Bridge with the Blues’ only sighting of goal during the opening quarter being a very weak Morata header from the edge of the box. Hassenhüttl had confirmed his new set of players would attack from the start and that is exactly what they did as Danny Ings failed to keep his header down after being well picked out in the air.
Antonio Rudiger carved out the game’s first real opportunity for Eden Hazard just after the half an hour mark, clipping a fantastic ball over the Southampton defence only for Gunn to remain tall and keep out the Belgian’s powerful strike from close range.
Other than Cedric deflecting Morata’s goalbound effort behind for a corner, the first half came to a close with the home supporters sounding extremely underwhelmed.
It was nearly made a lot worse for the 40,000 restless Chelsea fans as Stuart Armstrong called Kepa into action for the first time. The Chelsea stopper had to push the bending effort past the post as he was clearly desperate to make sure it didn’t catch him out.
His opposite number had to stay alert 10 minutes later, batting Hazard’s near post shot away after he had jinxed inside from the left-hand side. But as the Blues pressure had slowed down nearing the game’s climax, Morata had seemingly put his side in front.
A neat interchange 25 yards out freed up the space for Fabregas to find his Spanish team-mate who had peeled off the Saints defence before squeezing a scuffed attempt past Gunn. The linesman had flagged for offside but the replays showed that the former Real Madrid man was just onside as he was slipped through on goal.
The visitors’ debutant goalkeeper didn’t allow Morata to beat him a second time as a breathtaking counter-attack led by Ruben Loftus-Cheek ended up at the feet of the 26-year-old whose left-footed shot was straight at Gunn. It was certainly a first Premier League appearance to remember for the young goalkeeper as he was to thank for securing a valuable point.
Sarri will have been impressed with back-to-back clean sheets but just one goal in two games is certainly a cause for concern. His side are unable to put it right straight away with two cup games, firstly an FA Cup tie with Nottingham Forest before they face Tottenham in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.