Southampton’s resurgence continued as they condemned Chelsea to a second successive home defeat at a stunned Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard’s men came into the game in a buoyant mood after a superb victory against Spurs last time out, a win which felt like a definitive moment in the evolution of this young Chelsea side.
Similarly the Saints were in high spirits following an impressive 3-1 away win against Aston Villa and they travelled to London in hope of securing back to back victories and with the intention of frustrating the home side with their defensive resilience and organisation.
The Blues looked sluggish straight from kick-off and struggled to create any meaningful chances in the first 45 minutes with their only shot on target in the first half coming in the form of a tame header from Fikayo Tomori. Whilst they enjoyed long periods of possession, any promising attacks seemed to break down in the final third as the Chelsea players failed to find any sort of composure in front of goal.
The home fans became increasingly frustrated as Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek continued to mark Chelsea’s lone striker Tammy Abraham out of the game while further up the pitch, the visitors started to pose a threat on the counter-attack.
With 31 minutes played, the Saints were rewarded for their hard work following a swift counterattacking move, Hojbjerg’s pass beating two Chelsea players to find Obafemi, who cut inside Zouma before unleashing a superb 18-yard strike into the top left corner. The Irish youngster had been selected in place of the rested Danny Ings and celebrated right in front of the Chelsea faithful after scoring only his second goal in professional football.
The half-time break prompted a tactical change from Frank Lampard as his back three switched to a back four with Mason Mount replacing Kurt Zouma and the substitute made an immediate impact upon entering the pitch as his pass set up Abraham whose shot fired into the side netting just seconds after the restart.
Chelsea continued to dominate possession but looked no closer to finding an equaliser as the Southampton defenders remained resolute, reacting to any potential danger quickly and efficiently. The Saints should have doubled their lead midway through the second half as Nathan Redmond found himself through on goal thanks to Stuart Armstrong’s pass, but the winger was unable to convert after his shot was saved by the outstretched arm of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
As Chelsea failed to find their rhythm, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side continued to impress on the break and in the 73rd minute, Redmond made amends after he capped off a sensational team move. After an impressive sequence of passes, N’Golo Kante hoping to cut off Stuart Armstrong’s pass, inadvertently guided the ball perfectly in the path of Redmond who smartly chipped the ball over Arrizabalaga to the delight of the away supporters.
A come-back proved insurmountable for the hosts, despite a late free-kick from Mount forcing Alex McCarthy into a save. Southampton now find themselves six points better off than they were last season. Ralph Hassenhuttl’s jubilant celebrations at the final whistle signified the importance of the three points in their battle for survival, while defeat for Chelsea means they have lost 5 of their last 7 league games and they now sit just three points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham in the table.
Hassenhuttl gave his post-match thoughts to Match of the Day:
I think we saw the passion from every player on the pitch today. It was maybe the best game of the season. I think people know that the level was high and that the team needed to show up today. With fixtures coming, we needed to rest players but everyone played a fantastic game.
Chelsea will hope to regain their form against Arsenal at the Emirates on the 29th of December, while Southampton attempt to secure three consecutive victories when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday.