Southampton travelled to Stamford Bridge eleven days after Chelsea had given us a real mauling At St Mary’s in the FA Cup.
With acting skipper Jose Fonte still out we looked a bit threadbare in defence and manger Nigel Adkins made a couple of selection changes to the team which caused a stir. Lambert and Ramirez dropping to the bench with do Prado and S Davis replacing them.
The teams selected :-
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, D Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba. Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Bertrand, Marin, Torres.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, S. Davis, Schneiderlin (c), Cork, Puncheon, Guly, Rodriguez. Subs: K. Davis, Lambert, Ramírez, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Seaborne, Chaplow.
The game began with slow open football and no obvious urgency being shown by either side. Chelsea had a slight edge but Southampton did make sorties into the Chelsea half.
In the 6th minute good work from Demba Ba and Frank Lampard made a chance for Emboaba Oscar but his shot goes wide of the left-hand post.
Though Saints looked comfortable on the ball they were making fewer chances than Chelsea, and Eden Hazard was foiled as he broke through but earned a corner. Frank Lampard was then unable to climb high enough to meet the cross from the right.
David Luiz had started well for Chelsea and he made a superb 50 yard pass to Juan Mata who in turn found Frank Lampard. Lampard looked as though he was in position to shoot but instead he passed the ball sideways to Cesar Azpilicueta who blazed the ball over the bar.
15 minutes gone and us Saints fans were wondering when the slowly increasing fluidity being shown by Chelsea would bring the inevitable goal. The Chelsea control was momentarily broken as Nathaniel Clyne chips the ball into the box from the right for Jason Puncheon, but he heads wide.
As the 16th minute arrived the blue faithful duly rose to do their chanting for former hero Roberto Di Matteo. Moments later and Demba Ba shoots tamely for Artur Boruc to save.
20 minutes gone and in a quiet atmosphere Saints were growing in stature and we were left wondering when the fireworks would begin. The quietness of the Chelsea fans isn’t helped when a lovely through ball was handled by Ba.
With neither side having a real shot of meaning we were beginning to feel that this might just be the night to grab our first point/points against a top six side this season. We should have known better.
Frank Lampard plays the ball Cesar Azpilicueta and his cross is deflected up into the air by Jos Hooiveld as he tussled attackers, and Ba swiveled sweetly to sends his right-foot shot into the far corner past despairing Artur Boruc.
Chelsea swept forward again and we began to think that maybe we were not going to get off as lightly as we had hoped. Saints though were still in the game and good work Puncheon just fails to reach a well directed through ball.
The team was still fighting for the cause though and a superb pass forward to Jay Rodriguez who controls the ball well before passing to Steve Davis but he blasts over.
Normal service resumed and Mata sent Ba raising through the middle only for Boruc to race out and save superbly. Then only a magnificent piece of covering by Luke Shaw thwarted Frank Lampard when he looked almost certain to score.
As half time approached Chelsea took command and pushed ever harder for a second goal. Mata finds Lampard but he fires narrowly wide. Then Boruc saves Saints by tipping a deflected shot round the post for a corner.
With Saints fans calling for the whistle we got one but not for half time. Saints fail to clear a cross to safety and it falls to Ramires who sees his shot strike the post and rebound to Hazard who slots the ball home.
The whistle blows shortly after and disappointed Saints fans reflect on how close we had gone to holding out for just a one goal deficit.
The second half began with the same slow pace as the first had done. Ashley Cole puts in a cross which Boruc holds well. Then a Saints sortie ends with a corner which Guly do Prado wastes. The game appeared to be drifting to the expected ending but Saints have a trick up their sleeve.
55 minutes and Rickie Lambert enters the fray in place of Jay Rodriguez. New life sparks the team and Saints attack down the right where Nathaniel Clyne sends in simply superb delivery which is headed firmly past Petr Cech.
1-2 and Saints though deliriously happy wait for the Chelsea response. Clyne though is beginning to enjoy more freedom and soon after he sends in another cross but Chelsea manage to scramble the ball clear.
Chelsea have been stung into action now and Luiz sends out a great pass to Hazard who sets Cole up but he blasts the ball straight at a Saints player. Then came possibly the move of the match. Some absolutely brilliant interplay between Juan Mata and Demba Ba gives the striker a great chance before Ba fires over the crossbar.
Saints fans are now watching nervously but the game is held up momentarily as Richard Chaplow replaces Steve Davis. Little changes as it looks like Chelsea are now fired up.
Maya Yoshida brings down Juan Mata and a free kick is awarded in a dangerous area just outside the box. Perfect chance for Frank Lampard to add to his career scoring record but he shoots past the near post.
Again Saints make a substitution with Gaston Ramirez coming on for the quiet Guly do Prado. Almost immediately some superb play from 17 year old Luke Shaw down the left who beats Cesar Azpilicueta before delivering a cross which sits up nicely and Jason Puncheon smashes his effort into the back of the net.
Saints fans are going mental with a mixture of joy and disbelief. Here was the team that stuffed us so emphatically a mere 11 days earlier being pegged back to 2-1.
Chelsea respond swiftly but the Saints’ wall blocks and clears a David Luiz free kick. Chelsea then bring on Fernando Torres in place of stalwart Frank Lampard.
Saints are now defending desperately as Chelsea throw the kitchen sink at them. Ba has a shot blocked, and Torres tries an elaborate scissor kick which misses. David Luiz then receives the first yellow card of the match for a professional foul on Gaston Ramirez as he runs menacingly forward for Saints.
5 minutes remain and Saints fans are now desperately calling for the final whistle as Chelsea are camped in our half. Though the night is cold not one of the fans will have noticed as the temperature inside the stadium was reaching boiling point.
Chelsea are attacking relentlessly but desperate blocking keeps our goal safe. Added on time comes and Chelsea still press. As the time runs out a free kick is awarded to Saints and Artur Boruc takes it and relief on relief the referee blows for time.
Unbelievably Saints have come from two goals down and earned a point at the Champions League Champions home ground. The best result of the season by a mile for me and one which showed that we are learning to fight for our lives.
Amazing simply amazing. Proud of every one of the team and the incredible away support. A night to remember.
Join Vital Saints
Nigel Adkins – 9
His selection policy is starting to bear fruit. Brilliant timing for the first substitution and he has the team playing better all of the time.
Rafa Benitez 6
He seemed to have no answer to the revival made by Saints in the second half.
After a subdued first half the electricity certainly sparked after the arrival of Sir Rickie Lambert lit up the night.