Less than a week ago there were whisperings of a Chelsea stumble, that a loss to Spurs in the FA Cup could lead to a total meltdown and then a tough enough game against Southampton could seal their fate allowing their London rivals a real shot at the title. But, four days can be a long time in football and none of that came to pass. Sure the game against the Saints may have sealed their fate, but not in the way some had thought/hoped, last night’s 4-2 victory has now all but guaranteed that Chelsea will soon lift the Premier League trophy.
Conté restored Costa and Hazard to the starting line-up and decided to give Fabregas a rare start. It wasn’t long before the Spaniard was involved as he attempted a clever through ball for Hazard within a minute of kick-off. It came to nothing but was a clear mark of the home side’s intent and just a few minutes later they were in front.
Costa chased a long ball down the right channel and managed to hold up the ball long enough for Hazard to make his way in to the box, he rolled the ball back to his team mate and Southampton’s players seemed to stand still as Hazard stroked the ball into the far corner. It was a decent finish but when the ball came to him Saints had six of their own players in the box, he should never have been allowed to get the shot away, never mind hit the target. Nonetheless it was 1-0 to Chelsea and just the start they would have wanted.
Fabregas was enjoying himself in midfield and was at the heart of everything the Blues tried while going forward but after their sluggish start Southampton were beginning to make their way into the game. A number of dangerous looking balls in to the Chelsea box saw the away side grow in confidence and on 23 minutes they were level.
Azpilicueta failed to make a decent contact on a Southampton corner, only managing to flick the ball beyond the back post where Gabbiadini collected it and had a go from a difficult angle. Courtois was equal to the shot but in saving it he deflected the ball directly in to path of Chelsea old boy Romeu, who gleefully tapped home.
As the half wore on both sides pressed for a second but it was Chelsea who managed to go ahead just before the break. Collecting the ball from a cleared corner, Kanté delivered a great ball into the box from deep which was met by Alonso at the edge of the area, his header put it right in the danger zone and as Costa set himself up for a bicycle kick, Cahill stole in to plant a header in to the bottom corner.
Things only got better for the home side after the break. Again it came, (sort of), from a corner. Hazard and Fabregas exchanged passes and the latter whipped in a beautiful cross that was met by Costa, who showed great strength to hold off Bertrand before he headed it past the despairing Forster on 54 minutes.
That was effectively game over and from then on Chelsea played the game like a schoolyard bully holding a smaller child away at arms length while Southampton swiped at them ineffectually. Every now and then Chelsea gave them a quick slap to show them who was boss and then as the game neared its end they delivered the killer blow.
Costa’s second was superb and was the kind of goal only a team and player full of confidence scores. First there was a quick one-two with Hazard, then another with Pedro as Costa picked up pace, making his way in to the box, collecting Pedro’s flicked return he powered past Yoshida and buried his shot in the bottom corner.
With the result decided Southampton pulled one back in stoppage time through another Chelsea old boy Ryan Bertrand but it was no more than a consolation goal for the visitors. A fine performance from Chelsea sees them move another step closer to the title, can anyone stop them now?
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