01172018

Chelsea extend Southampton’s miserable run

Marcos Alonso

Marcos Alonso’s winner came with the last kick of the first half

Chelsea edged past Southampton thanks to Marcos Alonso’s winner to move level on points with second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League.

Alonso’s long-range free-kick beat Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster to put the hosts ahead in injury time of a first half the hosts had dominated.

Eden Hazard thought he had doubled the Blues’ lead after the break, but Cesc Fabregas was flagged offside in the build-up.

Pedro hit the post and Fabregas shot wide as Southampton, now winless in five matches, rode their luck at Stamford Bridge.

It is an eighth win in 10 league games for Antonio Conte’s side, who are 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester City alongside Manchester United.

However, United, who boast a better goal difference than Chelsea, face West Brom on Sunday.

Chelsea classy but not clinical

Conte said his expectation was “to suffer” before Saturday’s game, but his side were in complete control throughout.

They should have been in front long before Alonso’s speculative, curling free-kick from distance that caught Forster out low to his right.

Willian, Hazard and Pedro impressed with intricate passing and neat footwork – but with forward Hazard dropping off when marshalled by a deep-lying Southampton back five, Chelsea were lacking a cutting edge and focal point in the area.

Graphic showing Eden Hazard's touches against Southampton<!–

Conte opted to keep striker Michy Batshuayi on the bench, while top scorer Alvaro Morata – who has been watching videos of club legend Didier Drogba’s goals for the Blues – was only deemed fit enough to also sit among the substitutes.

Chelsea’s club record signing was given the final 17 minutes to prove he was up to speed in an attempt to put the game beyond Southampton – and he very nearly did with a smart turn and strike soon after coming on.

The Spaniard combined with compatriot and fellow substitute Fabregas for the latter to force another save from Forster late on.

It was Fabregas who teed up Hazard for the Belgium forward’s only shot on goal, which found the net but was ruled out for offside.

Blue Christmas for Saints?

Charlie Austin<!–

Charlie Austin had Southampton’s only two shots on target after coming off the bench

Southampton are now without a win in five games since beating Everton in November, although during that run they have been narrowly beaten by runaway leaders Manchester City and conceded a late equaliser against Arsenal.

It was a much more disciplined performance than Wednesday’s 4-1 drubbing by Leicester, and they frustrated champions Chelsea until the third minute of injury time in the first half.

Boss Mauricio Pellegrino made six changes, with defender Virgil van Dijk, long linked with a move away from the club, one of those to drop to the bench.

Charlie Austin – with two goals in three games prior to Saturday’s defeat – was another to find himself left out, but it was the striker’s arrival on the hour mark that seemed to offer Saints their most likely route back into the match.

He forced a save from Thibaut Courtois with his first touch and managed Southampton’s only other shot on target, though Chelsea were never really troubled.

Southampton are now just three points above the relegation zone, with the visit of Huddersfield next Saturday taking on added importance before tricky trips to Tottenham on 26 December and Manchester United four days later.

More to follow.

Live Text

Match ends, Chelsea 1, Southampton 0.

Second Half ends, Chelsea 1, Southampton 0.

Attempt missed. César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas following a set piece situation.

Willian (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Sofiane Boufal (Southampton).

Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Oriol Romeu (Southampton).

Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.

Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Fraser Forster.

Attempt saved. Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Álvaro Morata.

Ryan Bertrand went off injured after Southampton had used all subs.

Attempt blocked. Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Marcos Alonso.

Attempt saved. Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by César Azpilicueta with a cross.

Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Ryan Bertrand.

Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Wesley Hoedt.

Offside, Southampton. Fraser Forster tries a through ball, but Charlie Austin is caught offside.

Foul by Álvaro Morata (Chelsea).

Maya Yoshida (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jack Stephens (Southampton).

Attempt blocked. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Jack Stephens (Southampton) is shown the yellow card.

Nathan Redmond (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Nathan Redmond (Southampton).

Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Gary Cahill.

Attempt missed. Charlie Austin (Southampton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jack Stephens with a cross.

Substitution, Chelsea. Davide Zappacosta replaces Victor Moses.

Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Ryan Bertrand.

Attempt blocked. Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tiemoué Bakayoko.

Attempt missed. Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box misses to the right. Assisted by Willian following a set piece situation.

Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Mario Lemina (Southampton).

Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Tiemoué Bakayoko.

Attempt blocked. Wesley Hoedt (Southampton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Thibaut Courtois.

Attempt saved. Charlie Austin (Southampton) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Sofiane Boufal with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Victor Moses with a cross.

Attempt saved. Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas.

Substitution, Chelsea. Álvaro Morata replaces Eden Hazard.

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