03/10/2015: Chelsea 1-3 Saints
Saints notched their first Premier League away win of the season in stunning fashion at Stamford Bridge. Ronald Koeman's men were the superior side for much of the game, and could have easily won by an even bigger margin.
Saints were slightly tentative in the early going. The visitors passed the ball about patiently, without really stretching the Chelsea defence. Ramires man-marked Sadio Mane, and kept the Senegalese striker relatively quiet until the end of the first-half. Saints had the first opportunity on 8, with Jose Fonte unable to connect at the near post from a corner.
Chelsea took the lead on 10. Eden Hazard embarked on a mazy run down the left flank before being clipped by Oriol Romeu. Willian curled a beautifully flighted ball into the top right corner. Saints played ok during the next 10 minutes or so. Steven Davis found himself in open space on the right of the area on 16, only to fire well over the bar.
Chelsea soon started to gain a better grip of possession. Hazard shot straight at Maarten Stekelenburg after a sustained spell of pressure. Oscar then tried a lob, but once again Stekelenburg was equal to the challenge. Saints had two great penalty shouts turned down. Firstly Branislav Ivanovic almost tore Virgil van Dijk's shirt off in the box. Then Mane was fouled by Ramires. A few moments later Mane was incorrectly booked for diving.
Saints pressed Chelsea a bit more towards the end of the first-half and managed to create a few good chances. van Dijk's header across goal was cut out on 39. A few seconds later Victor Wanyama almost caught out Asmir Begovic with a dipping cross. Mane played in Ryan Bertrand on 41 and his low shot was well saved. Saints finally made the breakthrough on 43. Steven Davis hammered the ball into the bottom corner after Graziano Pelle had chested the ball down.
Romeu and Ramires were withdrawn at half-time, with their respective managers wary of picking up second bookings. Having kept Mane relatively quiet for a good portion of the first-half, Chelsea bizarrely abandoned their man-marking policy (either that or Ramires' replacement Nemanja Matic was just really bad at it).
Saints sensed some unease within the Chelsea backline and started to really go for it. Koeman's team played long balls over the top for Mane and Dusan Tadic to run on to. Tadic tormented his countryman Ivanovic throughout the second-half and John Terry and Gary Cahill didn't know what to do with Mane. On 48 Mane had a succession of chances, first testing Begovic after being played in by Tadic. He had another effort blocked before substitute James Ward-Prowse fired wide.
Saints continued to build, looking a lot more assured in possession than their opponents throughout the second-half. The pressure was building, and on 60 Saints finally took a deserved lead. Mane turned Terry after being played in by Pelle before placing the ball through Begovic's body.
Saints barely let up after the goal. Tadic had a free-kick go wide on 67. Ward-Prowse's audacious effort two minutes later went just over the bar. Then on 72 Pelle put Saints fans in dreamland. The move for the 3rd goal came from a swift counter. Mane played in Pelle on the right of the penalty area before the Italian powered the ball low and into the bottom corner.
On 76 Saints worked another great counter attack, which ended when Tadic's shot deflected out for a corner. Chelsea huffed and puffed during the last 10 minutes or so, but despite Saints tiring slightly, they were unable to create many meaningful opportunities.
An unforgettable evening and a result and performance to savour. Saints were a bit too cautious early on, but the intensity of our attacking play during the second half was most pleasing. Koeman's team has previous struggled on the counter, but this was an area Saints excelled at on this occasion. The front three of Pelle, Mane and Tadic had a bit of everything; skill, aerial presence, aggressiveness and pace. Defensively the team was excellent too, both individually and collectively. Even taking into account Chelsea's recent problems, this was still a game we probably weren't counting on winning, so three points is a massive bonus. Suddenly things are looking a lot brighter than they were a few weeks ago.
Stekelenburg: 7. Made a few good saves and looked pretty assured throughout
Cedric: 8. Easily his best showing in a Saints shirt so far. Showed so good skill going forward and solid defensively
Fonte: 8. A much improved display. Made some vital last ditch challenges and blocks
van Dijk: 9. Once again showed composure in even the most testing situations
Bertrand: 7. Effective at both ends of the pitch
Wanyama: 8. Quietly limited Chelsea as an attacking force
Romeu: 6. Neat and tidy, but early booking curtailed him slightly. Decision to bring him off at half-time the right one
Davis: 7. Had been wasteful early on, but scored a great goal and improved from that point. Took up some great positions, and effective in helping Saints break
Tadic: 8. Ran into trouble quite a bit during the first-half, but caused all sorts of problems with his skill after the break as he moved further up the pitch
Mane: 9. Tightly marked by Ramires in the first-half, but still able to weave some magic. Unplayable in the second. Won the ball back with his persistent pressing on countless occasions
Pelle: 9. Involved in all three goals and once again in huge presence in the attacking third. Even put in some good defensive work at set pieces
Ward-Prowse: 7. Energetic and tactically sound
Rodriguez: Kept things ticking over, with Saints defending comfortably
Yoshida: Sent on for the exhausted Mane to run down the clock a bit more
Chelsea: Willian (10)
Saints: S Davis (43) Mane (60) Pelle (72)
Referee: Robert Madley
Chelsea line-up: Begovic, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires (Matic 46) (Remy 73), Fabregas, Willian (Pedro 64), Oscar, Hazard, Falcao
Subs not used: Blackman, Zouma, Baba, Loftus-Cheek
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Romeu (Ward-Prowse 46), S Davis, Tadic (Rodriguez 77), Mane (Yoshida 90), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Martina, Juanmi, Long