Late heartbreak for Saints

By SFC Media time Sat 14 Apr Saints v Chelsea
Photo by Matt Watson | Ryan Bertrand
Sat 14 Apr 12.30PM
Premier League
Tadic [21'] Bednarek [60']
Giroud [70' 78'] Hazard [75']
Højbjerg (42') Ward-Prowse (44') Bertrand (65') Romeu (78') Long (81')
yellow card
Hazard (64') Willian (82') Cahill (90+4')
Referee: Mike Dean | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 31,764

Southampton were dealt a heartbreaking defeat at St Mary’s, as Chelsea came from two goals behind in the closing stages to win 3-2.

Dušan Tadić’s first-half strike and a goal from Jan Bednarek after an hour of his Premier League debut looked set to give Saints a precious three points, only for Antonio Conte’s side to score three times in eight minutes and turn the game completely on its head.

It was doubly cruel on Mark Hughes’s men, who remain in the bottom three, with Chelsea’s first coming via a cross from Marcos Alonso, who could well have been sent off for a horrible tackle on Shane Long late in the first half.

As it was, though, Alonso’s cross allowed Olivier Giroud to pull one back on 70 minutes, before Eden Hazard equalised moments before Giroud slammed home the winner.

For Southampton, it was a bitter pill to swallow, having dominated so much of the game against the defending Premier League champions.

There was just one change for Saints from the side edged out by Arsenal last weekend, as Bednarek was handed his first top-flight appearance in place of the suspended Jack Stephens.

That allowed Hughes to retain three centre backs and a shape that served him well at Emirates Stadium, with the pace of Shane Long spearheading the attack.

If Bednarek, who celebrated his 22nd birthday this week, was nervous, there were no signs of it, as he strode out from the back in the opening moments to win a commanding header on the halfway line, before showing fine alertness after ten minutes to position himself in the right spot to block from Hazard, following a flash of danger from the Chelsea playmaker, as he cut onto his right foot 18 yards out.

It was a strong early start in general from Hughes’s team, as they married their solidity at the back with some promise in attack, particularly via the combination of Tadić and Ryan Bertrand down the left.

Still, clear-cut chances for either side were a while in coming.

When the first one arrived, though, it was taken ruthlessly.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg played a sensational pass from a deep position in the 21st minute, into the run of Ryan Bertrand down the left. He powered and muscled his way to the byline, before showing great awareness to cut the ball back to Tadić, who had positioned himself cleverly in space, and the Saints playmaker made no mistake, striking a low, left-footed shot into the far corner.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 14: Dusan Tadic of Southampton celebrates after opening the scoring during the Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on April 14, 2018 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Dušan Tadić celebrates putting Saints in front (Photo: Matt Watson)

Saints’ lead was threatened six minutes later, as N’Golo Kanté chipped a ball to the back post, where Davide Zappacosta nodded it across goal and into the path of Alvaro Morata six yards out, but he couldn’t leap high enough and ended up looping his header a few yards over.

There was certainly no onslaught, though, and Saints, with the way they were set up, maintained a real danger on the counter, characterised by Long’s electric burst from inside his own half on 36 minutes, which culminated with a shot that sliced a few yards wide from distance.

Moments later, Long’s lay-off to James Ward-Prowse 20 yards out nearly brought a second, but the midfielder’s low shot was well pushed away by Thibaut Courtois, who got down sharply to his right.

Saints continued to press for an additional goal as the game ticked towards half-time, with Maya Yoshida heading wide from an in-swinging Ward-Prowse free-kick, as Hughes’s men came close to earning some breathing space.

The only sour notes to the half for the hosts were late bookings for Højbjerg and Ward-Prowse, while there was also concern for Long after a horrible tackle from behind by Alonso, which went unpunished by referee Mike Dean when a red card could well have been shown.

While Saints could feel aggrieved at that decision, there was at least good news in Long’s ability to continue.

All told, the home side’s efforts brought a deserved and rousing cheer from the capacity home crowd at St Mary’s as the half-time whistle went.

There was nearly an even bigger roar nine minutes after the interval, as Long came so close to doubling the lead.

Højbjerg’s brilliant left-footed ball over the top from deep inside his own half set the striker away, albeit with Andreas Christensen in close pursuit.

It looked as though the Chelsea defender perhaps pulled him down on the edge of the area, but Long got back to his feet and spun into space to shoot, only to slip as he hit the ball, with it hitting his standing leg and almost looping over Courtois, who had to fling himself backwards and tip it over the bar.

Saints certainly looked the more dangerous, but there was a reminder of the visitors’ undoubted threat shortly after, as McCarthy had to dive to his left to make a sharp save from Willian’s shot through a crowd of bodies.

It was an important intervention, as Hughes’s men went down the other end and doubled their lead soon after with a moment to treasure.

Højbjerg was fouled on the right wing by Kanté, with Ward-Prowse whipping in a brilliant free-kick to the far post, and who was there to meet it? None other than Bednarek, on his Premier League bow, to stroke a brilliant, left-footed effort into the far corner as the ball dropped from the sky.

A seasoned top-flight striker would have been proud of that display of composure, let alone a young centre-half making his first appearance on such a big stage.

Any hope that goal would cause Chelsea to give up the fight was extinguished ten minutes later, though.

20180414 Southampton v Chelsea
Maya Yoshida reacts to Chelsea's second-half comeback (Photo: Matt Watson)

Alonso, fortunate to still be on the pitch, swung in a beautiful cross from deep on the inside-left, and Olivier Giroud, on as a sub shortly after Bednarek’s effort, got in between Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt to thump a brilliant header into the near bottom corner.

Five minutes later, the game was level.

Willian beat Cédric down the left and fizzed in a low ball that found Hazard unmarked ten yards out. The Belgian controlled the ball dead, then slammed a left-footed shot high into the net to level the game.

Three minutes after that, Saints were behind.

Willian played a free-kick to Hazard down the left, whose chip into the area bounced off a few heads and landed at the feet of Giroud in space, who slammed a left-footed half volley into the bottom corner.

Hughes quickly sent on Charlie Austin and Josh Sims for Ward-Prowse and Tadić respectively.

It nearly worked; Sims going close as the game moved into added time, only to be denied at the near post by Courtois.

Manolo Gabbiadini was then sent on for Bednarek in a last throw of the dice from Hughes, but Saints could not find the leveller and must now recover ahead of Thursday’s trip to Leicester City.

Match Sponsor: Utilita

Head to Head Stats

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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Wesley Hoedt
Jan Bednarek goal
replace Manolo Gabbiadini (92′)
Maya Yoshida
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg yellow card
Ryan Bertrand (C) yellow card
Cédric Soares
Oriol Romeu yellow card
Shane Long yellow card
Dusan Tadic goal
replace Josh Sims (83′)
James Ward-Prowse yellow card
replace Charlie Austin (79′)
Sofiane Boufal
Mario Lemina
Sam McQueen
Josh Sims
Fraser Forster
Manolo Gabbiadini
Charlie Austin


Thibaut Courtois (GK)
César Azpilicueta
Andreas Christensen
Gary Cahill (C) yellow card
Marcos Alonso
Davide Zappacosta
replace Pedro (61′)
N'Golo Kanté
Cesc Fàbregas
Eden Hazard yellow card goal
replace Victor Moses (86′)
Willian yellow card
Álvaro Morata
replace Olivier Giroud (61′) goal goal
Olivier Giroud
Victor Moses
Ross Barkley
Tiemoué Bakayoko
Willy Caballero
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