Chelsea 0-1 Southampton: Ward-Prowse free-kick inflicts misery on Blues after Azpilicueta injury blow
Southampton claimed a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday afternoon to boost their Premier League survival hopes.
After a whole host of changes and more missed chances, managerless Saints sealed the win in the 45th minute before the break to inflict back-to-back defeats on Chelsea.
James Ward-Prowse produced the opening goal of the game on the stroke of half-time with another free-kick to claim a league double over Chelsea this season.
After the whole of Stamford Bridge paid their tribute to former winger Christian Atsu who was killed in the Turkey earthquake, Southampton made a strong start to proceedings in the capital.
Kepa Arrizabalaga spared Benoit Badiashile’s blushes in the opening couple of minutes after making a save to deny Kamaldeen Sulemana’s effort, before Kalidou Koulibaly cleared Stuart Armstrong’s rebound off the line.
Moments later, Koulibaly was fortunate to get away with just a yellow card from David Coote after a high boot went into Paul Onuachu.
Onuachu had a chance of his own in the opening ten minutes at Stamford Bridge. He rose highest in the box to beat Ben Chilwell to the ball, but his head fell just wide of Kepa’s goal.
Noni Madueke had the first glimpse for the hosts after 13 minutes. He won the ball on the halfway line and drove towards goal to strike an effort goalwards, though Gavin Bazunu got down well to parry away his low shot.
Armel Bella-Kotchap was booked early on for the visitors after bringing down David Datro Fofana, who was making his first Blues start since joining the club.
It was a frustrating opening first section of the half for the Blues. A stop start affair made it difficult for any side to get any rhythm. Cesar Azpilicueta had half a chance but he could only fire into the side netting after a well-worked build-up from the hosts.
But Chelsea’s half was summed up in stoppage time. Southampton won a free-kick on the edge of the box and James Ward-Prowse, just like he usually does, fired past Kepa from the set piece to give the visitors a shock, but deserved lead heading into the interval.
As Coote blew the half-time whistle, boos were heard around Stamford Bridge as the pressure piled on Potter and Chelsea.
Potter opted to make a double change at half-time. Koulibaly and Datro Fofana, surprisingly after a positive first 45, were replaced by Wesley Fofana and Raheem Sterling.
Chelsea were brighter in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, it wasn’t difficult, including Sterling but it all came to no real avail.
Another roll of the dice was made just after the hour mark when Mount and Noni Madueke were replaced by Kai Havertz and Mykhailo Mudryk as Chelsea searched for a leveller.
The hosts almost had their equaliser after some excellent link-up play between Havertz and Sterling, with the German playing it back to Sterling in the box but the attacker saw his strike defiantly blocked by Ainsley Maitland-Miles.
Pressure kept on coming and the frustration continued. Havertz crossed to Sterling who headed goalwards but Romain Perraud sublimely cleared off the line, before the rebound was blocked and cleared.
Adam Armstrong nearly handed Chelsea a sucker-punch with 17 minutes to go after a superb cross by Theo Walcott, but Kepa narrowed the angle and blocked well.
Cesar Azpilicueta was then subbed off after getting a really nasty boot in the face by Sékou Mara, who was awarded a yellow card. The Blues skipper was replaced by Conor Gallagher, while Ben Chilwell came off for Trevoh Chalobah.
Despite 12 minutes being added on at the end of the game, Chelsea were unable to find a goal which continued their problems in attack as Bazunu ensured Gallagher couldn’t find the net from close range.
No win in the last five games for Potter and Co in all competitions which sees them suffer back-to-back defeats following the loss to Borussia Dortmund in midweek.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Blues as they end the month with an away trip to face Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday. No pressure.