Chelsea took another step towards the Premier League title tonight as the Blues comprehensively beat visitors Southampton 4-2.
Eden Hazard opened the scoring five minutes in with a fine finish across Saints keeper Fraser Forster, but it was Southampton who saw the vast majority of the ball before their well deserved equaliser from former Blue Oriel Romeu half way through the first 45.
A Gary Cahill header right before the break made it advantage Chelsea going into half time, and a brilliant second half brace from Diego Costa completed the scoring for the Blues. It was yet another former Chelsea man who got Southampton’s second, with Ryan Bertrand catching the Blues’ defence half asleep to nod home late into injury time.
It was a well deserved victory for Antonio Conte’s men – who with it extended their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points over closest challengers Tottenham – however the scoreline may have slightly flattered the hosts who were given a difficult ninety minutes by the travelling side.
The Saints continually worried the Blues throughout the game, especially when it came to set plays, with their movement and planning from the set piece often too much for Chelsea to handle. Claude Puel’s side still have a game in hand on those surrounding them and could move to within one point of West Brom should they win against Hull on Saturday.
Here are the player ratings for this evening’s match. Do you agree?
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
Unfortunate to have conceded two goals, especially the first where a nasty deflection prevented the Belgian from saving the ball. Could have been more decisive in collecting from corners and free-kicks.
Victor Moses: 7/10
Had an interesting battle with former Blue Ryan Bertrand throughout, and ultimately had the better of the Saints full-back, especially going forward where he threatened. Sometimes lacked a final product.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 5/10
Struggled with the movement of Manolo Gabbiadini and was too often caught out of position in the first half. Improved into the second 45.
David Luiz: 8/10
Excellent again just as he was at the weekend in the FA Cup semi-final, Luiz controlled the Blues defence brilliantly throughout and made countless key clearances.
Gary Cahill: 6/10
Showed great determination to get above the Southampton players and in front of Diego Costa’s flying boot to grab his goal, however looked shaky at the back, especially in the first half where Southampton caused a lot of problems for Chelsea’s back three.
Marcos Alonso: 7/10
That’s better. Was poor at the weekend against Spurs but looked back to his usual self tonight. Solid down the left flank and provided some lovely interplay with his team-mates going forward.
N’Golo Kante: 6/10
Not his best game, but a bit of post PFA Player of the Year jitters can certainly be forgiven. Unusually lost the ball multiple times in the first half, but was excellent during the second. Unlucky not to score had Eden Hazard laid the ball off earlier.
Nemanja Matic: 6/10
Urged to shoot almost every time he got the ball thanks to his wonder goal at the weekend, the Serb didn’t quite have his shooting boots on again this time. Comfortable in possession in midfield however.
Cesc Fabregas: 7/10
Played in a more attacking role which has proven to suit him better over the years, the Spaniard provided plenty of creativity going forward for the Blues and delivered a brilliant assist for Diego Costa’s first.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
Made the difference at the weekend and regained his starting position, and was once again at his brilliant best. Opened the scoring in sublime fashion and link up play with Costa was phenomenal.
Diego Costa: 10/10
Man of the Match. Best game the Brazilian born striker has had in a while. Held it up superbly, chased every ball and scored two wonderful goals – the second being something very special. Link up with Eden Hazard as mentioned was brilliant. Unplayable.
Pedro, Willian, Terry: N/A
All were brought on late to little effect. John Terry received rapturous applause.
Not used: Begovic, Ake, Batshuayi, Chalobah
Fraser Forster: 5/10
Considering Chelsea had seven shots on target and four of them ended up behind the England international, it will be a night to forget. Did make a couple of good saves to deny Chelsea even more.
Cedric Soares: 6/10
Started brightly and was giving Marcos Alonso plenty to do during the early proceedings, but his impact wilted as the game went on. Delivered some good balls into the box from out wide.
Maya Yoshida: 5/10
Struggled to deal with the physical presence of Diego Costa throughout as well as the movement of Chelsea’s front line.
Jack Stephens: 5/10
Similar to his centre-half partner, did the best they could but ultimately Chelsea were too much for the pair going forward, finding gaps between them both too often.
Ryan Bertrand: 7/10
Battled well against his former team-mate Victor Moses, getting up and down the pitch well. Showed why he should be considered to start for England and produced a sublime header late on.
Oriel Romeu: 8/10
Southampton’s best player. on the night, Romeu looked as if he had a point to prove against his former club. Had the better of Matic and Kante early on and distributed excellently from the midfield. Well deserved goal.
Steven Davis: 5/10
Absentee for much for the game and failed to make an impact going forward as he usually does so well. Delivered well from set plays.
James Ward-Prowse: 6/10
Covered plenty of ground and put in a great shift, however couldn’t find a final ball in open play. The Englishman’s set pieces were terrific however and caused Chelsea all sorts of problems.
Dusan Tadic: 7/10
Provided plenty of food for thought for the Chelsea back line throughout and pulled out a couple of fine saves from Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois. Held on to the ball well in attacking positions.
Sofiane Boufal: 4/10
May have looked fancy at times, but did little to nothing to impact the game in the place of Nathan Redmond and couldn’t last 90 minutes as his manager would have hoped. Will probably leave the club in the summer.
Manolo Gabbiandini: 6/10
Great movement and deft touches gave Gary Cahill and co. a tough time and kept them on their toes. Peeled away nicely at the back stick to create his side’s first goal.
Nathan Redmond: 6/10
Positive when he came on and gave the Saints a different outlet out wide.
Jay Rodriguez, Shane Long: N/A
Entered the game too late to have any real impact.
Not used: Clasie, Caceres, Højbjerg, Hassen
Do you agree?