Barkley, Hazard lead Chelsea past Southampton

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  • Hazard puts Saints ahead
  • Southampton misses pair of big chances
  • Morata strikes late for 3-0

Ross Barkley posted a goal and an assist as Chelsea beat Southampton 3-0 at St. Mary’s on Sunday.

Eden Hazard‘s fine campaign continued with another Chelsea goal to open the scoring and Alvaro Morata also scored for the Blues, who take hold of the top spot in the Premier League ahead of Man City’s visit to Liverpool.

Southampton is 16th, three points clear of the drop zone.

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Chelsea was living in the Southampton final third from Moment No. 1, but unable to produce the finishing touch.

How dominant was Chelsea? Blues backstop Kepa Arrizabalaga did not touch the ball until the 21st minute.

Once Saints sprung to life, though, the attack was very real. In-form forward Danny Ings missed a seemingly surefire opener when he planted his foot to meet a cross and popped the ball over the frame.

Wesley Hoedt‘s slide tackle of Olivier Giroud in Saints’ box had a bang-bang feel to it, but replays showed that Hoedt did not get a piece of the ball and Chelsea should’ve been at the spot for a penalty kick.

And of course it was Hazard.

As the clock hit 30:00, the Belgian capitalized on a turnover to side-foot Ross Barkley’s perfect pass past Alex McCarthy

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg found Bertrand at the back post in a mirror image of Ings’ chance in the first half, with the same result.

And again Chelsea was ready to punish at the other end, with Olivier Giroud scissor kicking Willian‘s free kick into the path of Barkley for 2-0.

Arrizabalaga tipped a long distance Nathan Redmond rip off the bar and over in the 79th minute, and McCarthy stopped substitute Alvaro Morata at the other end within a minute.

Ings tested Arrizabalaga with a distance effort of his own, but the Chelsea keeper pushed it over the bar in the 84th minute.

Morata scored in stoppage time to round off the scoring.

Southampton 2-2 Brighton: Set-pieces bring Seagulls level

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Southampton nearly earned its second win of the season, but visiting Brighton & Hove Albion erased a two-goal deficit to earn a point as the teams shared the points at St. Mary’s on Monday. Piere-Emil Hojbjerg’s howitzer put Southampton in front past the half-hour mark, and Danny Ings buried a penalty to double the home lead. However, Shane Duffy headed home to put Brighton on the board just moments after Southampton’s second, and Glenn Murray scored from the spot as regulation expired to draw back level.

The teams went back and forth in the opening 20 minutes, but only one shot on target was produced. Southampton had the best early opportunity on 21 minutes, as a corner swung into the danger area and somehow stayed out of the back of the net. Danny Ings’ effort was the most egregious, fired on goal from point-blank range but blocked before it even reached the goalkeeper.

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The Saints came close again in the 27th minute as Mohamed Elyounoussi headed a Nathan Redmond cross just wide to the right after jumping in front of his defender.

Southampton would finally make good on its attacking presence in the 35th minute and go in front at home. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg picked up the ball 10 yards outside the top-right corner of the penalty area and blasted a shot that knuckled through the legs of Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and past Matthew Ryan for the game’s first goal.

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The home side was buoyed by the lead, pressuring the Brighton defense for more and earning nine shots (three on target) to Brighton’s two (none on target) by halftime. After the break, the visitors seemed more intent to go forward. Anthony Knockaert forced a big save from Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and the visitors their first corner in the 52nd minute, although it came to nothing.

Despite the Seagulls’ bright start to the second half, Southampton nearly doubled its lead as a brilliant long ball over the top from Shane Duffy sprung Shane Long, but the Saints striker put his effort wide with Ryan charging out of his net to contest. The Saints would eventually go up 2-0 after Ings drove into the penalty area and was cut down by Gaetan Bong, a clear penalty. Ings stepped up and buried the spot-kick to put Southampton through.

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Brighton wasn’t phased, and they struck right back on 66 minutes. It came off a set-piece, with a free-kick delivered from the right of the box and Shane Duffy headed it home. The Seagulls pressed hard for an equalizer and put Southampton under pressure through the final 15 minutes. Knockaert had a shot from close range deflected past the post, while Bong sent in a cross from the left that was cleared just before reaching substitute Jurgen Locadia. Brighton nearly had an equalizer as Locadia got his head to a corner near the end of regulation that was saved well by McCarthy, but the Seagulls would get their second on the ensuing corner.

As the ball swung in, James Ward-Prowse shoved down Duffy, earning the spot-kick. Glenn Murray sent his effort straight down the middle past McCarthy for the equalizer in the first minute of added time.

Southampton nearly grabbed a winner on a free-kick down the other end, but Ryan produced a fabulous diving save to keep out Ryan Bertrand‘s curling effort. The final whistle confirmed Brighton’s second two-goal comeback in two weeks, having done the same last weekend against Fulham. With the points shared, both sides move to five points on the season through five matches, leaving both teams at their current places of 13th and 14th behind a trio of teams on six.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Southampton

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  • Foxes won 4-1 on Dec. 13 at St. Mary’s
  • Southampton five points back of 17th
  • Saints lead all-time 32W-27D-26L

Southampton is running out of time to save its Premier League status, and makes up its match-in-hand on several clubs with a visit to Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET, online via NBC Sports Gold).

Saints are five points back of 17th place Swansea City, though the Welsh side has also played 33 matches. They are six points behind Crystal Palace and seven back of Huddersfield Town and West Ham United.

Leicester is eighth after losing to Burnley, its Europa League hopes dashed with Everton and Newcastle nipping at their heels.

What they’re saying

Leicester City’s Claude Puel on finishing strong: “The right way, it is important to keep this momentum until the end and we will see when the players start in the game. [They must] give their best and maintain a good level in the team. We keep a serious ambition and we need to secure our place in the top half of the table. A lot of teams are close behind us so we need to continue.”

Saints’ Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on life in the relegation fight“The next few weeks is life-changing. Wherever our paths go, and wherever all our ways go, whether it’s short-term or long-term, this will all change our lives, this will all change our way of looking on football. I promise you, I promise to the fans, and I promise to the people standing outside, there is not one single person inside here who wants to be in this situation. There is not one person who actually thinks ‘Oh, this may be good for me in a way.’ Everyone is suffering.

Prediction

Claude Puel will be further motivated to get over on his old side, but Saints have a lot of firepower for what should be a wide-open game against sometimes-dicey back lines (often dicey in the case of Southampton). 2-2.

“A new impulse” – Hughes, Hojbjerg hope to ride Saints momentum

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It’s safe to say this is a season neither Mark Hughes nor Southampton had planned when it began this summer.

Saints are plodding along near the bottom of the table for most of the campaign while Hughes was fired from his post as Stoke City boss as his club found a similar level of underachievement.

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Now both have a chance to stay in the Premier League together, and took a decent step in establishing some positive momentum with a 2-0 FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic on Sunday.

“I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say it has been positive,” said Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. “It is a new impulse, new energy, good vibes, a fresh start. He worked a lot on intensity and discipline, and the desire to go the extra yards as individuals and as a team.

“We have some really good players and maybe this is the perfect fit, nothing is perfect in this world but it’s a good start, let me just say that.”

As for Hughes, his hiring comes straight out of the relegation scrap playbook. And it comes as no surprise he’s following it to a T when it comes to post-match talk.

He’s starting with the fans.

“We thank each and every one of them,” Hughes said, “Because it’s clearly not been an easy period for anybody with allegiances to Southampton FC.

“I like to think this was a reflection of what this group can do for them – we just need their support from now until the end of the season.

“If we get that, which I’m sure we will on the evidence of today, and everybody’s in it together, we will be fine.”

It is absurdly early in Hughes stint to make judgments, but Sunday’s win is a positive start. Next up is a critical tilt at West Ham on March 31, and a win will push Saints ahead of their hosts.

WATCH: Southampton team goal a thing of wonder

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Southampton’s goal woes met Everton’s

Saints entered the match averaging less than a goal a game, and St. Mary’s hadn’t been a fertile pitch for the South Coast club.

The visitors arrived having conceded almost two per game.

Something had to give, and early on it was the Toffees.

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Pierre-Emile Højbjerg helped started a one-touch play that found Ryan Bertrand down the left wing.

The England back’s wonderful sweeping pass found Dusan Tadic in the middle of the box, and the Serbian bodied off Leighton Baines before scooting the ball under Jordan Pickford.