GET IN: Jason Puncheon (centre) celebrates his goal
SOUTHAMPTON CREATED shockwaves in the capital by staging a fighting comeback from two goals down to gain a creditable 2-2 at Chelsea.
It looked all over for Nigel Adkins’s side at half time as Chelsea turned on the style in a bid to overturn the unpleasant mood that has boiled at Stamford Bridge of late.
However, the Saints snatched a point to share the spoils and based on their second half performance it was well deserved. Ricky Lambert’s header and a volley from Jason Puncheon helped them record a vital point as they look to avoid the drop.
The boo boys were out in full force in the Chelsea turnstiles. The Blues have only won two of their seven home games under interim manager Rafa Benitez. Two points dropped this evening damages the club’s fading hopes of catching the two Manchester clubs.
The night looked bright for Chelsea when Demba Ba marked his first start at Stamford Bridge in spectacular style when he broke the deadlock on 24 minutes. The Senegalese striker unleashed an elaborate bicycle kick from close range as the Blues made Southampton pay for a poor clearance inside the danger zone.
Jos Hooiveld’s blind pass allowed Cesar Azpilicueta to cross from the right, Eden Hazard flicked on thus unlocking the door for Ba to do the business.
Chelsea doubled their lead on the stroke of half time which looked to have disheartened Southampton’s efforts.
Eden Hazard and Oscar combined to find Ramires, whose strike bounced off the woodwork. Hazard reacted the quickest and rounded off the attack on the rebound with a classy finish.
Earlier this month the Blues blazed past Southampton 5-1 in the FA Cup. However, any punters assuming a routine win would be on the cards in this fixture were mistaken.
Southampton went into the game having claimed 17 points from their last 11 top-flight matches, just one fewer than Chelsea have collected, meaning there was little to chose between the two sides in the form book.
The visitors responded well after the break, largely thanks to an inspired substitution from Adkins. Three minutes after coming on Ricky Lambert headed past Petr Cech.
Full-back Nathanael Clyne got the better of Hazard surging down the flank and the England U21 international assisted Lambert who found a gap in the Chelsea defence.
Not afraid to strut their stuff against the European champions, the South Coast outfit turned the game on its head with 15 minutes to play. As the visitors broke on the counter, Jason Puncheon teed himself up for a volley foind the back of the net.
Southampton’s spirit and grit to earn a point made it a night to remember for the travelling supporters and importantly sees them up to 15th in the table.
The grunts and groans from the anti-Rafa contingent continues as the Spaniard struggles to win the hearts and minds of the Stamford Bridge faithful, many of whom still resent the decision to axe Roberto Di Matteo and bring in the former Liverpool manager.
Benitez's battle has not been helped by the disparity between Chelsea's home and away form. Owner Roman Abramovich will be left rueing the news today that managerial target Pep Guardiola has agreed to take the Bayern Munich hot seat in July.
The former Barcelona manager’s decision to head to the German top flight instead of the Premier League fuels the possibility of a return to Chelsea for Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea looked a distant shadow of Saturday's impressive victory at Stoke and were without the services of John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses who are away on international duty as Nigeria participate in the African Cup of Nations.
Frank Lampard skippered the side and slotted in well alongside Ramires but when Chelsea required a match winner the most, their stars were unable to put away their chances and secure a much needed victory.