Chelsea tie Southampton and start feeling title pressure
Manchester City dropped points away at Burnley on Saturday, losing 1-0, leaving the door open for Chelsea on Sunday to widen the gap (with a win they could have moved eight points clear) on top of the Premier League table. The Blues faced a struggling Southampton side, at Stamford Bridge, that had scored only one goal in their previous four matches.
Mourinho reverted back to his traditional lineup with Courtois in goal, Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic as defenders, Fabregas and Matic as holding midfielders, Hazard, Oscar and Willian as attacking midfielders and Costa as the lone striker, hoping the team would regain early-season form after a disappointing home loss against PSG.
Costa opened up the scoring in the 11th minute with a wonderful header and just eight minutes later, Chelsea’s Matic conceded a penalty kick which Dusan Tadic converted in the 19th minute. Throughout the rest of the first half, Southampton looked the most likely to score as Chelsea did not look sharp, had many wayward passes and were saved on multiple occasions by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois as he made some wonderful instinctive saves.
In the second half, Chelsea put wave after wave of pressure on the Southampton backline but were unsuccessful putting the ball in the back of the net. Southampton goalie Fraser Forster made some fine saves towards the end of the match, making a double save to keep out Oscar's header and Hazard's follow-up and then soon after saved Oscar again.
Already on a yellow card for his penalty-conceding tackle, Matic was a booking away for getting a second yellow and being sent off. So Mourinho brought on Ramires as his replacement, which provided some much-needed energy in the middle of the park for Chelsea. Towards the end of the second-half, Mourinho threw out all his attacking options bringing on Loic Remy for Oscar and Juan Cuadrado for the injured Willian; neither had any real impact on the game.
Chelsea enjoyed 61 percent possession, had more shots on goal and more on target than Southampton, but Fabregas was extremely ineffective throughout the game. Chelsea’s midfield general looked usually out of sorts connecting with his attackers and failed to pull the strings the way he did earlier in the season.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw, meaning Chelsea still has a six point lead on second-place Manchester City, while playing one less game.
After this draw, Chelsea have drawn four of their last six games in all competitions and are looking quite stale going into the end of the season.