LONDON — Chelsea and Southampton put on an entertaining show at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as a 1-1 draw played out in west London.
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Diego Costa’s early header was canceled out by Dusan Tadic’s penalty kick and both teams had plenty of chances to go ahead, but the points were shared for the second time between Chelsea and Saints this season.
Here’s three things we learned from a gripping clash…
MANE’S THE MAIN MAN
Sadio Mane played like a man possessed at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, especially in the first half. The Senegalese attacker has often played out wide since joining Saints from Red Bull Salzburg on Deadline Day back in the summer, but is clear to see his most effective position is in the middle. Mane’s first touch was sublime, his link up play with Shane Long was immense and he was brilliantly denied by Thibaut Courtois in the first half and had two bicycle kicks in the box blocked. He was everywhere and clearly likes playing against the Blues as his goal put Saints 1-0 up against the Premier League leaders back in December, when the teams drew 1-1, as he get in behind Gary Cahill and coolly slotted home.
Mane, 22, has scored six goals in his last 10 appearances for Saints and the message Ronald Koeman sent out by dropping him from the starting lineup against Liverpool in February for turning up late to the prematch meal has certainly been received loud and clear. The Senegalese flyer possess searing pace and when he plays through the middle, opponents don’t know what to do. If they get too tight, he spins them and if they stand off he takes one touch past them and cannot be caught. Ivanovic, Cahill, Matic… they couldn’t handle Mane on Sunday as he has undoubtedly become Saints’ main attacking weapon in his first season in England.
PENALTY DECISIONS PIVOTAL… AGAIN
In the 19th minute Mane drove through in the box and was brought down by a combination of a nudge from Branislav Ivanovic and a sliding tackle from Nemanja Matic. The latter, even though he didn’t have control of the ball, did seem to get something on it and when referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, Jose Mourinho was once again cursing his luck when it came to penalty decisions.
Chelsea had two penalty claims waved away by Dean in each half, as Ivanovic was clipped by Tadic in the box but his theatrical dive did him no favors. The in the second half Costa went down in the box under Jose Fonte’s late challenge and thumped the turf with his fists as Chelsea were denied yet another penalty against Saints. Remember, there’s history here. Back on December 28, 2014, Mourinho claimed there was a “clear campaign” against Chelsea as Cesc Fabregas was denied a clear penalty kick away at Southampton and was booked for diving. Mourinho was fined for those comments, and with Chelsea’s player being accused of unsportsmanlike conduct on many occasions this season, perhaps their reputation does play a part in not getting penalties. Then again, Saints are the only PL team not to give away a PK this term. Lucky? Or saintly?
SAINTS FAIL TO CAPITALIZE FROM MIDFIELD DOMINANCE
In the 29th minute Southampton carved open Chelsea with Long playing the ball into Tadic after he combined with Mane. As the ball was worked out to the Serbian winger on the left he tried to play a pass instead of getting off a shot. Ronald Koeman was apoplectic on the sidelines as he side failed to capitalize during their best period of the match.
Moments later Tadic had a drilled effort which Courtois pushed away, and then in the next attack Courtois was forced to push the ball out after Ryan Bertrand’s dangerous cross from the left caused havoc in the box as the ball pin-balled around before finally being cleared. After equalizing Saints had a real purple patch in which they dominated proceedings and broke free from midfield with ease as Fabregas and Matic both had days to forget. Fabregas, who had his left knee heavily strapped, looked to be struggling from the fatigue of extra time against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday and Matic also looked to be laboring (no surprise when he was replaced with Ramires in the second half as Matic probably should have got a second yellow) as Mane buzzed in-between him and Chelsea’s back four. No doubt Koeman will be happy with Saints’ point on the road but he will think about what might have been had they converted key chances when they were on top in the first half. That said, Saints weathered a severe Chelsea storm late on so maybe a point was, after a superb game, a fair result.