Chelsea secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday as they kept pace in the race for Champions League football next season. Manchester City kept their incredible run going with a 4-1 thumping of Tottenham, which strengthened the Blues’ grip on third place – but Antonio Conte’s men remain 14 points behind the high-flying Citizens.

Chelsea have now won eight of their last ten Premier League matches and appear to be currently dealing well with the current rigours of playing European football and a crowded domestic schedule.

Fresh off the back of their 3-1 win at Huddersfield on Tuesday, Antonio Conte decided to shuffle his pack with Gary Cahill coming into the team for Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the defence. Alvaro Morata could only make the bench as he stepped up his recovery from injury meaning Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro lead a pacy-looking forward line.

Blues come out of the blocks fast

Chelsea started the game on the front foot and following good work from Willian on the left, the ball made its way back to N’Golo Kante, who tested Fraser Forster in the Saints goal from distance. Willian continued to terrorise the Southampton defence and his great work in the 33rd minute teed up Marcos Alonso, who brought a great reflex save from Forster at his near post.

Pedro then went on a mazy run, eluding tackles at will before his deflected shot hit the post with Fraser Forster stranded. The pressure was mounting and in first-half injury time, the stern Saints defence was breached. Smart work from Eden Hazard drew a foul from Maya Yoshida, 30 yards from goal.

Forster was still organising his wall as Alonso stepped up and fizzed a curling left-footed shot into the bottom corner to register his fourth goal of the season. It was a sucker punch for the Saints, who had been resolute in their first-half approach.

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Austin fails to mount Saints fightback

Charlie Austin was introduced at half-time and the England striker eluded the attention of the Blues defence before bringing an excellent save out of Thibaut Courtois who had an otherwise quiet game.

The remainder of the half was an arduous affair with Southampton seemingly happy to keep possession without hurting the Blues. Chelsea thought they had grabbed a 2-0 lead when Hazard finished off an amazing team move, only to see the goal ruled out with Cesc Fabregas adjudged to be offside.

Marcos Alonso tested Forster once again from distance before Austin was again snuffed out by Courtois as the clock ticked down. Alvaro Morata was introduced and his pace and vision helped feed Fabregas, who jinked through the defence and squeezed the ball through Forster’s legs – but the ball slid agonisingly past the upright.

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Conte spoke of the perceived lack of praise for his team in his post-match press conference as the Blues now turn their attention to Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup before a tricky-looking trip to a resurgent Everton, whilst Southampton will be looking to bounce back at home to Huddersfield next Saturday afternoon.

Header image by @cfcunofficial [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons