Chelsea fought back from the shock of conceding a goal after just 13 seconds to beat Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and move up to second in the Premier League table.
It was never going to be an easy task against a side that had won at Liverpool and taken a deserved point from Old Trafford, and having conceded the early goal many Chelsea fans – and players? – could have been forgiven for thinking this was not going to their day.
The Pensioners have been struggling of late, with a tame loss at Newcastle followed in the league by the controversial 2-2 home draw with West Brom and another insipid performance – and a loss – against Basel in the Champions League (albeit proceeded by a straightforward 3-0 win at West Ham). Whilst it’s far too early to speak of pressure on Jose Mourinho, a home defeat here could have been the cue to start the debate given the short-termist nature of life in the Premier League, not to mention Roman Abramovich’s well known penchant for wanting champagne football and first class results yesterday if not earlier.
The goal that would have set Mourinho’s pulse racing here came as the result of an awful attempted back pass from manager’s favourite Michael Essien, making his first start of the season. The Ghanaian midfielder let in Jay Rodriguez who had no problem beating Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal.
Southampton have a fine blend of velvet and steel, with midfield enforcers Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin constantly closing down and breaking up the home attacks. Oscar occasionally managed to wriggle free of their attentions and was Chelsea’s most likely source of a goal but – save for a decent strike from 18 yards that was well saved – Saints keeper Artur Boruc was rarely tested. The Brazilian attacker was subbed off after 42 minutes injured and at that stage it really looked like being Southampton’s day.
At half time The Special One made another change, bringing off Essien and switching to two up front, Demba Ba joining Fernando Torres. The change, and no doubt stern words from the boss at the interval, produced the desired effect and the Blues began to control possession and look to create chances. This urged the crowd on and, as the pressure built, Gary Cahill managed to bundle the ball in after a header from Ba.
At 1-1, with 35 minutes remaining the home side knew this game was there for the taking and captain John Terry scored with a fine header on 62 minutes. Juan Mata, making a rare start, was pulling the strings now and as Southampton tired the home side looked to make sure of the win. Torres and Ba both had chances to seal the win before the latter made sure of the points at the death after good work from Ramires.
On the balance of play it was the right result but Mourinho and his side know they have a lot of work to do if they are contest the title. A trip to Sunderland on Wednesday awaits and another three points will be required.