Chelsea ended a tough week by going six points clear at the top of the league with a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton. The Champions League chasing Saints frustrated Chelsea, denying them a win for the second time this season. Diego Costa gave the hosts the lead, but Dusan Tadic equalised from the spot to give his side a share of the points. That may not have been the result Jose Mourinho was hoping for, but it does send his side further clear at the top.
After their Champions League exit against PSG on Wednesday, Mourinho kept faith with mostly the same side. The only change to the starting line up here was Willian replacing his countryman Ramires wide on the right. Nemanja Matic made a first Premier League appearance since being sent off against Burnley three weeks ago.
The team will have started this game with the PSG result fresh in their minds, as well as the fact that Manchester City slipped up to Burnley less than 24 hours before. With the chance to move eight points clear with a game in hand, Chelsea started the game brightly. That was capped off when Costa scored his 18th of the season to put them ahead. He got on the end of a ball from Branislav Ivanovic to find the net for the first time since January. That also sent him above Sergio Aguero in the race for the golden boot.
That lead for the hosts was short lived, however, as the Saints were back on level terms within eight minutes. Saido Mane found himself stuck between Ivanovic and Matic, and the referee judged he was fouled. Tadic stepped up to take the penalty, and dispatched it with ease to get his side back level. After that, the Blues struggled to make anything much of note in the remainder of first half, and they gave the visitors chances to take the lead.
Mourinho’s switch at half time was replacing Matic with Ramires, and it seemed to do the trick, as the athletic Brazilian added pace and power to Chelsea’s game. They poured forward with menace after that, but they came up against a goalkeeper at his very best. Fraser Forester pulled off a string of fantastic saves to keep his team level, putting in the kind of performance that could worry Joe Hart.
In the end, the two sides had to settle for the draw. While it wasn’t the best way to respond to the poor display on Wednesday night, it was an improvement. This has been an incredibly tough few days for the team, after their European exit and then being denied a win at home, but they’ve come out of it having extended their lead over City in the race for the title. While their main rivals for the premier League crown can’t seem to have anything fall for them, the Blues are clutching at positives from below par performances. The match against the Saints may not have been the performance of champions, but it’s clear that they’re on the verge of claiming that accolade, especially if City keep slipping up.
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