SOUTHAMPTON — Following Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at St Mary’s on Sunday, the Premier League leaders saw their lead at the top remain at three points.
[ RELATED: Chelsea, Saints share spoils ]
Jose Mourinho’s men went behind and battled back to get a point against a spirited and resilient Saints.
We learned a heck of a lot about Saints’ top four hopes and Chelsea’s dreams of clinching the title.
Here’s three things which stood out.
HAZARD’S TRICKERY UNSTOPPABLE
Last week USMNT defender Geoff Cameron told ProSoccerTalk in his weekly blog that Eden Hazard was the best player he’s faced in the Premier League. On this showing, it is easy to understand why. Granted, Southampton’s regular right back Nathaniel Clyne was out injured and center back Maya Yoshida had to step in at right back, but every time Hazard picked up the ball Saints! backline backpedaled. Early on he skipped past three challenges but his effort was blocked, but then right on half time came a moment of brilliance. Hazard got the ball on the left, flicked it past Yoshida and cut inside past three defenders to curl a beauty into the far corner. It was Chelsea’s first effort on goal in the game, as Hazard now has 10 goals for the season. In the second half he drilled a low effort wide of the far post and Saints had to sub off Yoshida as he was still spinning around in circles chasing his own tail in pursuit of Hazard. He isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last defender to be given the runaround by Hazard.
SOUTHAMPTON’S CONVEYOR BELT CONTINUES
Regular left back Ryan Bertrand was unable to play for Saints on Sunday as the Englishman is on loan from Chelsea. His replacement was a teenager from Saints’ famed academy and he did not look out of place. They have now used 18 players from their own acadmey system since they regained their place back in the Premier League in 2012, and left back Targett (just 19) made his first PL start against Chelsea. Like his predecessors — which includes the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw — Targett looked the part right away. He locked down World Cup winner and German international winger Andre Schurrle who was replaced at half time by Willian.
In the 37th minute Targett surged forward from left back, cut inside on his right foot and drilled a shot towards goal. Cool throughout, Targett was joined by another academy product James Ward-Prowse on the pitch in the second half and Lloyd Isgrove and Harrison Reed were on the bench. In Targett, Southampton’s famed academy looks to have polished up and popped out another gem. A bright future beckons for the England U-20 international.
SIMULATION REARS ITS UGLY HEAD
In the second half, Chelsea were robbed of what they believed was a clear penalty kick. Cesc Fabregs got the ball just inside the right side of the penalty box and pushed it clear of teenage defender Matt Targett. The Spaniard went down after being clipped by Targett, who seemed to slip, but instead of awarding Chelsea a penalty kick to put them 2-1 up, referee Anthony Taylor booked Fabregas for simulation. The Spanish midfielder was incensed as he waved his arms in the air repeatedly and was jeered for the rest of the match by the home supporters. Whether or not it was a dive, Chelsea were not happy.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Jose Mourinho was livid that no penalty was given and claimed there is a “campaign” against Chelsea when it comes to simulation.
“Everybody else has the same opinion,” Mourinho said. “We don’t need to speak about it because everybody knows. The referee made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes but it was a big mistake. He is a very good referee. He is young, he has years and years of football ahead of him. It was a big mistake. Tomorrow is another day.”