Southampton 1-1 Chelsea: Saints hold leaders in pulsating draw

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SOUTHAMPTON — Chelsea remain top of Premier League, but their poor form on the road continued as they drew 1-1 with Southampton on Sunday at St Mary’s.

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Despite impressive play from both teams, they each scored with their only shots on target in a feisty game down in the sun on the south coast of England. Southampton went ahead through Sadio Mane’s cool finish in the first half but Eden Hazard equalized right on the stroke of half time to hand Chelsea a point.

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Saints ended the match with 10-men as Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off but after all their pressure Chelsea could not find a winner. Jose Mourinho’s men stay top of the PL with 46 points from 19 games, while Saints stay in fourth place on 33 points.

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Hazard bamboozled Saints’ defense early on with his trickery but it was the home side who went close inside the first 15 minutes as a corner from the right was headed towards goal by Mane but John Terry cleared the danger just as Jose Fonte was ready to pounce.

Then Southampton took the lead as Dusan Tadic flicked the ball through to Mane who ran clear of the defense and lobbed the ball over Thibaut Courtois. 1-0 to Saints. Chelsea found it hard to recover after that setback as Schneiderlin tried his luck from distance, then the Blues almost drew level as Cesc Fabregas’ surging run down the left saw his cross deflected and it looped just past Andre Schurrle at the back post.

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Graziano Pelle went close to making it 2-0 to the hosts but drilled an effort just over, but then right on the stroke of half time an equalizer arrived with Chelsea’s first shot on target. Hazard made the most of some slack defending from Saints as the Belgian wonder cut in from the left and drilled it into the far corner. 1-1.

In the second half Chelsea were buoyed by their equalizer but Southampton weren’t going down without a fight. Fabregas was booked for diving in the penalty box after 54 minutes, as he went down under pressure from Matt Targett in a real moment of controversy. Hazard flashed an effort wide with 30 minutes left as Chelsea kept the ball superbly but Saints dug in to try and seal a point.

Didier Drogba arrived from the bench late in the game to try and help grab that winner and they nearly got it when James Ward-Prowse’s awful back pass was picked off by Costa but as the Brazilian went in on goal, he slipped at the vital moment. A huge let of for Saints who had Schneiderlin sent off two minutes from time for his second booking after a cynical foul on Fabregas, but Saints held on to frustrate Chelsea and grab a much-deserved point.

LINEUPS

Southampton: Forster, Yoshida (Gardos, 62′), Fonte, Alderweireld, Targett, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Tadic (Ward-Prowse, 58′), S Davis (Long, 77′), Mane, Pelle

Goals: Mane (17′)

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Filipe Luis; Matic, Mikel (Drogba, 74′); Schurrle (Willian, 46′), Fabregas, Hazard; Diego Costa (Remy, 89′)

Goals: Hazard (45′)