It was yet another game to forget for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side as they fell to defeat away at Southampton yesterday. Ralph will have been left smiling after his side’s spirited display, but Chelsea boss Tuchel will be scratching his head after his team lost 3 points yesterday. Chelsea have lost 2 in their last 5 games, creating a cause for concern.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Southampton (4-2-3-1): Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Perraud, Lavia, Diallo, Elyounoussi, Ward-Prowse ©, A. Armstrong, Adams.
Substitutes: McCarthy, Bednarek, Valery, Djenepo, Aribo, S. Armstrong, Lyanco, Walcott, Mara.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Mount, Ziyech, Sterling, Havertz.
Substitutes: Kepa, Ampadu, Chilwell, Kovacic, Gilmour, Chukwuemeka, Pulisic, Broja, Vale.
Hasenhuttl made 2 changes from the side that lost to Manchester United at the weekend. Romain Perraud came in to replace Moussa Djenepo who has played an unorthodox full-back role for the Saints recently. Ibrahima Diallo replaced new signing Joe Aribo in the attacking midfield.
Thomas Tuchel made 3 changes to the side that won at home on Saturday. He was however without star player Reece James due to the illness and Trevoh Chalobah was side-lined through an injury he picked up against Leicester. Kalidou Koulibaly came in after serving his suspension. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta came for the ill Reece James and Hakim Ziyech was given a run in the side, after Conor Gallagher was sent off at the weekend.
Southampton started lively in the opening stages. Saints attacking midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi was the first player who tested Edouard Mendy, but his shot was gathered safely by the Chelsea keeper.
15 minutes into the first half and it looked as if Chelsea had finally settled into the game, after a cagey opening. Raheem Sterling was at the centre of Chelsea’s good play. He had a couple of opportunities come his way as Chelsea found some rhythm in the game. He didn’t quite catch his shot properly as Mason Mount fed him a ball through the inside, but the chances kept coming for the England International.
Sterling, Mount and Ziyech were at the centre of some good creative play, but the Saints defended well, as they did all night.
Saints new signing Armel Bella-Kotchap denied Sterling from opening the scoring with an excellent timely tackle, but Southampton couldn’t keep the goal scorer away for much longer. Havertz, who played on the left-hand side of the forward line, created a chance for Mason Mount to find Sterling in the middle of the box. Sterling initially found himself crowded out by a pressing Southampton defence. However, he kept his composure and weaved his way through the players, scoring from close range. 23 minutes in, and the Blues had the lead, 0-1.
After Chelsea’s goal, they continued to look threatening, but Southampton stood firm, which started to become the story of the game. A brilliant ball from Ziyech gave Havertz the chance of quickly doubling the Blues’ lead, but the angle for his shot was too narrow and he played it straight into Gavin Bazunu’s hands.
Soon after, Chelsea found themselves on the back foot, and under significant pressure from the home-side. The Blues conceded a corner, which Azpilicueta attempted to deal with, but only half cleared. The ball fell to Romeo Lavia, and the midfielder unleashed a sensational shot past Mendy from the edge of the area. Chelsea’s lead lasted just 5 minutes, and the teams were level. 1-1.
As half-time approached, Chelsea quite simply, fell apart. The Blues lost possession as the minutes were added on. Southampton found a new lease of life after their equaliser and stretched Chelsea’s defence. A spell of possession and a series of passes from Southampton cut Chelsea open. Adam Armstrong found himself in space as he sent a shot towards Mendy. It deflected and gave the Chelsea keeper no chance, and the home-side went into halftime ahead. Chelsea had lost their lead, and Southampton had turned their fortunes around.
At half-time, it was Southampton 2-1 Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel was forced into a change at half-time, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek expressed some discomfort in his knee. The Croatian International wasn’t deemed fit enough to start the game, but it was a must for the Chelsea boss, and Kovacic was thrust into the action.
As the second half kicked off, Marc Cucurella came to Chelsea’s saviour to save the away side from conceding 3. He blocked a header that came in from close range from Elyounoussi, and Mendy tipped the follow up effort over the bar.
Chelsea had one counterattack in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and made very little of it. The response to the Southampton lead was poor, and the energy and effort from Thomas Tuchel’s side was very low. Tuchel made a triple substitution to try and salvage something from the game, bringing on Christian Pulisic, Ben Chilwell and Armando Broja.
Despite the changes, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side remained dominant. They looked lively, took up a good defensive shape and they challenged Chelsea. The Saints were the team that looked like scoring, and came very close too, if it weren’t for Chelsea’s Thiago Silva. The veteran defender somehow backheeled a goal bound header away from underneath the crossbar to keep the score at 2-1.
In the last 10 minutes Chelsea managed to muster up a chance at the Southampton goal, as Sterling fizzed a cross in towards Broja, but the Albanian International couldn’t generate enough power on the attempt to beat Bazunu.
Southampton put on a valiant display at St. Mary’s and came away with a deserved 3 points. They were compact, defensive, and their attacking fluidity was excellent. Hasenhuttl will be more than pleased with his team’s display and will hope that they take the same attitude to the Molineux on Saturday.
As for Thomas Tuchel, the solutions to his side’s recent performances need to be found, and fast. His Chelsea side are dropping too many points and are performing well below par. The Blues need to find answers to their problems.