LONDON — Southampton stunned Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, as the Saints piled the pressure on Jose Mourinho with a famous win.
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Willian‘s superb free kick gave Chelsea the lead, but Saints came roaring back as Steven Davis volleyed home before half time and then goals from Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle stole the show.
[ MORE: Mourinho – “If they want to sack me… sack me” ]
Here’s three things we learned from an entertaining encounter at the Bridge, as Chelsea’s woe continues.
BRAVE SAINTS REWARDED
With John Terry back marshaling Chelsea’s defense after being left on the bench for four of the last five games, the thought was that the skipper could supply some stability to a leaky Chelsea backline. Wrong. Time and time again Southampton carved open Chelsea’s pedestrian defense, as Mane should have had a penalty in the first half after Branislav Ivanovic caught him, then Saints had two glorious chances at the start of the second half. Buoyed by Davis’ brilliant volley on the stroke of half time which brought them level, Mane ran at the heart of Chelsea’s defense on countless occasions as Pelle flicked balls on and the central defensive duo of Terry and Gary Cahill, who looked so untouchable for most of last season, didn’t know what to do.
Yes, Chelsea was bad at the back, but full credit must go to Southampton for forcing the issue as they secured a first win at Stamford Bridge since 2002. With the scores tied at 1-1 at half time, Koeman’s men could have sat back and settled for what they had. But, like many teams have found out this season, Chelsea’s solid defensive core which was the cornerstone of their title-winning season last year, has evaporated. Mane’s pace gave Terry and Cahill kittens, and there was only so many times Begovic could bail his defense out. He saved from Mane in the 48th minute when the Senegalese forward was clean through on goal, then Dusan Tadic turned Ivanovic inside out on numerous occasions and Mane then ripped Chelsea apart. First Dusan Tadic and Pelle forced Cahill into a mistake, as Mane raced cleared and scored Saints’ second. For their third he picked up the ball 10 yards inside his own half and ran at Chelsea’s ragged defense, slotting it wide to Pelle who rifled home the third. Manchester United tried to make a late bid for Mane in the last transfer window which Saints rejected. After this display, the lynch-pin of Saints’ fluid attacking unit will be have added a few more zeros to his value. Saints threatened to sneak into the top four last season but wobbled to finish seventh. The confidence they will gain from this win should reignite their season.
HOME FANS TURNING ON MOURINHO
With five defeats in their opening 11 games of the season in all competitions, the unthinkable has started to happen: the home fans have started to turn on Jose Mourinho. “The Special One” seemed certain to have a job for life at Chelsea following their title win last season. Now, with unrest on and off the field, things are unraveling quickly in west London as he even admitted earlier in the week that this was “his worst period” in management. Results have gone against him, sometimes that happens and Chelsea’s fans have stuck by him throughout the Eva Carneiro situation and everything else in-between. On Saturday however, the home fans booed his decisions as he replaced Willian with Pedro and then subbed off Nemanja Matic with 20 minutes to go, after he only brought the Serbian midfielder on at half time. Those theorists who predicted at the start of the season that Mourinho would endure the “third-season syndrome” at Chelsea and things would unravel — as he made enemies with players, staff and everyone else — were laughed at. Now, they’re looking pretty smart. After eight games of the PL season, Chelsea has lost four times and Mourinho, who had lost just once in the PL at home throughout his previous five seasons with the Blues has now lost to Crystal Palace and Southampton in the opening four home games of this campaign.
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The alarms bells are ringing at the Bridge and one fan summed it up perfectly when he walked past the press box in the dying stages of the game: “Rubbish. Rubbish. Rubbish. Just write that down, that’s what we are!” At this point in time, it’s hard to disagree with him as the champions are imploding and Mourinho is under more and more pressure with every demoralizing defeat.
HAZARD, FABREGAS, CAHILL HIGHLIGHT ISSUES
What are the reasons for Chelsea’s sensational drop-off this season? Simply put, many of their star players aren’t performing anywhere near their level. Cahill was spun all over the place by Mane and Pelle. Cesc Fabregas was bullied in midfield and couldn’t get hold of the ball. Eden Hazard hardly had a kick and had no support. Those were the most noticeable of the poor displays, but every Blues player, not for the first time this season, had an off day. Only goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could walk off the pitch with his head held high for the home side. There is no simple answer for Chelsea to try and turn this around. They are stuck in a rut and big changes need to occur if they’re going to get back among the top four. After eight games they are now seven points off the top four. For those saying: “Chelsea will come good, they will finish fourth at the worst.”
Really? Are you sure?