27/02/2016: Saints 1-2 Chelsea
Saints' unbeaten run came to an end after Chelsea came from behind to win at St Mary's. The teams had been fairly evenly matched for much of the contest, but towards the end of the game Ronald Koeman's side ran out of steam slightly. The final result was probably the right one.
The two sides cancelled each other out in the first-half. Jordy Clasie rarely ventured out of his spot just in front of the back-four, but Steven Davis and Oriol Romeu were given licence to push up high when the ball was in Chelsea's half. When the visitors were on the attack Saints conceded the flanks to adopt a narrow shape. Chelsea didn't commit many men forward and found it difficult to play their way through.
Saints' attacking football was fairly orthodox. Neither side created too much in the first-half. Shane Long headed just over the bar under pressure on 10 after Virgil van Dijk had brilliantly hooked the ball to the far post. On 31 Charlie Austin almost grabbed a goal out of nothing, brilliantly turning on the edge of the area before shooting just wide.
Saints were typically organised defensively. Chelsea only really threatened from range or at set pieces during the opening 45. Oscar shot straight at Forster, before Cedric played a risky ball just past the post. Just as Chelsea appeared to be taking control of the game Saints took the lead. Long burst on to Baba Rahman's weak header before lifting the ball over the onrushing Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea controlled possession for most of the 2nd half, although Saints initially showed good energy on the break. Cesc Fabregas and John Obi Mikel had early headed chances. Diego Costa squandered a great opportunity just before the hour, volleying over from Hazard's cross.
The game got a bit feisty midway through the second-half, with Costa doing his best to antagonise the Southampton back-line. He, Ryan Bertrand and Clasie were all booked in quick succession. Chelsea stepped it up during the last 20 minutes, with Saints bereft of ideas going forward. Long went off injured and was replaced by Graziano Pelle, who naturally didn't offer anything like the same amount of energy. Saints appeared to have a good penalty shout turned down on 72 when Gary Cahill handled the ball.
Chelsea levelled the game on 75. Fabregas' attempted cross caught out Fraser Forster and crept in at the back post. Saints appeared to switch off slightly after claiming that Costa had taken the ball out of play in the build-up to the goal. The Blues did all the pressing during the remaining 15 minutes. Willian's low shot crept just wide of the post on 82. Oscar then shot straight at Forster, before Branislav Ivanovic found a winner with two minutes to spare. The Serb got above van Dijk to head in through Forster's grasp.
Saints played ok overall, but can't really have too many complaints about the result. The team defended well as a unit and worked hard, but were undone by individual errors. Saints' new setup is geared to defend, but perhaps a different approach was needed in the second-half today. The team sat very deep and invited pressure, rather than trying to get at Chelsea. Saints had options on the bench, but the changes either weren't made at the right time, or didn't have the desired effect. In the grand scheme of things it's not that big a deal. Chelsea have been on the up recently, and we've built up enough momentum for this to be written off as a blip. Saints should adopt a much expansive game-plan for the upcoming fixtures against Bournemouth and Sunderland.
Forster: 5. Broke the record for the longest run of clean sheets for Saints in the top-flight in his worst performance since his return. Should have done better for both goals conceded. Kicking not great either
van Dijk: 6. A difficult one to assess. Long range passing superb, and defensive work was generally good, but he was still partially responsible for both goals conceded
Fonte: 7. One fluffed clearance, but otherwise a good showing. Threw his body in the way of a lot of danger
Bertrand: 7. Kept Costa quiet for most of the match
Cedric: 6. Put in some decent crosses, and offered cover at the back
Targett: 6. Neither good or bad really. Played it safe on the ball, not given that tough a test defensively
Clasie: 8. Made one particularly good tackle on Willian in the first-half and generally protected the defence effectively
Davis: 6. Bright in the early going at both ends of the pitch. Linked play quite well, but seemed to run out of energy in the second-half
Romeu: 7. Didn't always use the ball that well, but covered a lot of ground and sharp in the tackle
Austin: 6. Produced a few moments of quality near goal, and displayed some reasonably good movement, but overall fairly quiet
Long: 7. Ran the channels brilliantly and got yet another goal. Successful chasing a number of lost causes he had no right to win. Will be missed if he's injured for a significant amount of time
Pelle: 5. Nature of the game meant he didn't really see any of the ball high up the pitch. None of his flicks came off
Mane: 5. Didn't make much of an impact. Caught offside a few times towards the end.
Ward-Prowse: Not on long enough to make a difference
Saints: Long (42)
Chelsea: Fabregas (75) Ivanovic (88)
Attendance: 31,688 (3,220 Chelsea fans)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Saints line-up: Forster, van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand, Cedric, Targett (Ward-Prowse 89), Clasie, S Davis, Romeu, Long (Pelle 69), Austin (Mane 79)
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Yoshida, Martina, Tadic
Chelsea line-up: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Baba (Kenedy 46), Mikel, Fabregas, Hazard (Matic 90), Willian, Pedro (Oscar 7), Costa
Subs not used: Begovic, Traore, Loftus-Cheek, Remy