Chelsea eased to a relatively comfortable 3-0 victory against Southampton at St. Mary’s on New Year’s Day, as the Blues scored three times in the second half to win their fourth game in their last five and keep the heat up on leaders Arsenal.
Fernando Torres opened the scoring with an instinctive header, before Willian scored with a powerful strike from outside the box and fellow sub Oscar rounded off the win late on. Jose Mourinho’s substitutions won him the game, as Willian in particular was spectacular after coming off the bench and swinging the game in Chelsea’s favor.
As for Southampton, they struggled to create any clear cut chances as their recent woes continued with just one win from their last nine games.
With the victory Chelsea are third and just two points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, while Southampton stay in ninth.
Chelsea started the game superbly as Torres twice went close early but was denied by Jose Fonte’s superb block with his first chance, as Saints lived dangerously in the opening minutes.
Andre Schurrle also smashed an effort just wide as Chelsea dominated from the offset, while Southampton teammates Dejan Lovren and Fonte accidentally collided with the former needing length treatment as his teeth looked to be badly damaged.
Torres and Ramires then combined to put the latter clean through but Kelvin Davis raced off his line to clear the ball superbly as the Saints survived yet another close call. However after weathering the early storm in torrential rain and driving winds at St. Mary’s the home side almost scored twice as Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez linked up well only for Ashely Cole to clear the danger. Soon after that Jay Rodriguez also went close as Chelsea’ defense got out of a mix up with Cole again cleaning up the danger.
Before half time Davis came quickly off his line once again to thwart Chelsea, and that sparked Southampton into life as Lallana latched onto Calum Chambers’ great ball from the right but Cesar Azpilcueta blocked the shot wonderfully from Saints’ skipper.
The end-to-end nature of this match continued until half time, but the teams went in locked at 0-0.
At the start of the second half a massive goalmouth scramble saw Fonte and Rodriguez denied by valiant Chelsea defending, as the Saints looked to go ahead early in the half.
But it was Chelsea who should have gone ahead as Oscar went clean through moments after coming off the bench, but instead of slotting home he rounded Davis and then took a dive which was spotted by Martin Atkinson. The Brazilian attacker was then booked for simulation, as somehow he preferred to try and get a penalty kick instead of slotting home a goal. Mourinho was not a happy man.
Yet soon after Chelsea were celebrating a goal, as Oscar cut in from the right and his curling effort struck the post and bounced up perfectly for Torres to head home from close range in the 59th minute. Southampton brought on Rickie Lambert to try and get back into the game, and Saints’ England international headed straight at Petr Cech from close range with a glorious chance for an equalizer.
However the chance came and went as Willian smashed in a second for Chelsea in the 70th minute, as the Brazilian winger turned the game on its head after coming off the bench to devastating effect. Saints looked a beaten side after that, as Chelsea stormed forward to try and put the result beyond all doubt.
Oscar did just that in the 81st minute as he raced clear of the Southampton defense and then his shot deflected past Davis as Chelsea ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
Southampton: K. Davis, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw (Clyne, 45), Cork (Lambert, 60), Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Ward-Prowse, 76), Lallana, Rodriguez, Ramírez
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Schurrle (Willian 52), Mata (Oscar, 52), Hazard (Essien, 85); Torres
Goals: Torres (59), Willian (71), Oscar (81)