Chelsea could only manage a draw at Southampton in their final game of 2014, but they still remain top of the Premier League table heading in to the New Year. Saido Mane put the hosts ahead, before Eden Hazard equalised just before half time. Referee Anthony Taylor was in the firing line after the game, as he booked Cesc Fabregas for diving in the penalty area, despite it looking as though the Spaniard had been fouled.
The Blues came to the south coast just two days after playing West Ham, and they had to make several changes to that side. John Obi Mikel came in for Oscar, leaving Fabregas playing further forward in the number 10 position. Willian was replaced by Andre Schurrle, while Filipe Luis replaced Cesar Azpilicueta at left back.
Those changes may have affected the rhythm of the team as the Saints started off the better of the two sides. The home side were rewarded for that positive start just after a quarter of an hour when Mane went through on goal and lifted the ball over the helpless Thibaut Courtois. The forward’s pace seemed to have the beating of the visitors’ central defenders, something Saints’ boss Ronald Koeman said was a weak point in this Chelsea team.
With the league leaders pushing for an equaliser, they managed to go in level at the break, after Hazard scored with just seconds left in the half. Fabregas provided his 13th assist of the season by playing a fantastic ball over the top to the Belgian who then glided past half of the hosts’ backline before firing home.
The second half saw Willian come on for Schurrle, as Jose Mourinho’s charges went in search of the lead. He was infuriated after seeing his side have a penalty claim turned down when Fabregas looked to have been tripped by the right leg of Matt Targett, but the referee gave the Chelsea man a yellow card, apparently for diving.
Chelsea were handed an advantage when Southampton went down to 10 men, with Morgan Schneiderlin receiving two yellow cards, but the Saints managed to hang on after the dismissal, earning a point to keep their place in the top four.
After the game, Mourinho left no one in any doubt about his feelings on referee Anthony Taylor’s performance. He told the press after the game, “There is a campaign against Chelsea I don’t know why there is this campaign and I do not care. Everybody knows it was a penalty. The referee made a mistake, people make mistakes and he made a big mistake. He is a good referee and a good guy, he is young, he has years and years of football ahead of him but it is a big mistake.”
Despite that draw, the Blues remain three points clear at the top of the Premier League, and they kick off 2015 with a potentially tough trip to rivals Tottenham on New Year’s Day.
LCN Man of the Match: Cesc Fabregas