Saints were outclassed by a strong Chelsea outfit on a rainy afternoon at St Mary. The home side looked strong in spells, particularly in the first half, but weren't clinical enough. Petr Cech was barely tested, and once Chelsea scored they never looked back.
Chelsea were quicker to adjust to the wet surface. Saints were guilty of misplacing a few simple passes early on. The visitors had a couple of excellent chances within the first 10 minutes. Fernando Torres had a shot deflected just wide of the post, having broken free with a clear run at goal. A few moments later Andre Schurrle came close. Chelsea's transitional play was very good. Ramires was particularly effective at exploiting Saints' high-line, making a number of marauding runs towards goal. Fortunately for the home side, Kelvin Davis' judgement of those quick through balls was excellent.
Saints spent most of the first 15 minutes chasing the ball, but edged their way back into it by the midway point. Gaston Ramirez found some joy with a succession of long passes, while Calum Chambers put Chelsea's back-line under pressure with a series of crosses. Adam Lallana had a couple of chances, but both efforts were blocked. Chelsea were really well positioned at the back, making it difficult for Saints to find a clear sight at goal. Pochettino's men made it just as hard, with Hazard struggling to find a way through towards the end of a tense first half.
Saints made a bright start to the 2nd half. An early corner led to a goal-mouth scramble, but nobody could force the ball through a congested six yard box. Saints had a couple more set pieces that came to nothing. Then Jose Mourinho made a double substitution, bringing on Willian and Oscar. That completely swung things in Chelsea's favour. Saints defended fairly well as a unit up until the first goal, but looked fairly vulnerable afterwards.
There was an element of luck involved with Chelsea's opener. Oscar's cross from the left took a wicked deflection off of Calum Chambers, before bouncing off the post. Torres netted a simple header from the rebound. Pochettino responded by replacing Jack Cork for Rickie Lambert. The introduction of the England striker was welcome. He fired a weak header into the ground, straight at Cech and generally looked bright. The problem was that without Cork, Saints were a lot more exposed at the back. Chelsea dominated possession, and controlled the midfield. The longer the match went on the more gaps they found within the Southampton back-line. At the other end, John Obi Mikel let very little get past him.
Chelsea pretty much had the game in the bag on 71 minutes when Willian made it 2-0. The move started with Oscar cutting in from the left past Chambers and Ramirez. He played the ball across to the edge of the penalty area for Willian, who steadied himself before blasting in. By that point you'd struggle to find anyone in the ground who thought Saints were still in with a shout of grabbing a point. Chelsea wrapped things up on 82. Saints' defence was all at sea during the final quarter. Eden Hazard's looping ball just over the halfway line sprung the offside trap. Oscar completed a clear run towards goal, before wrong-footing Davis. Chelsea's experience shone through during the second half. They did really well to kill the game off after the first goal, barely giving Saints a sniff. Ramirez did curl just wide in stoppage time, but the game was obviously out of reach by that point.
A disappointing day for Saints. We should have created more in front of goal when we were on top during the first-half, but credit must go to Chelsea for limiting us to so little. The gulf in class well and truly told today. Saints should be aiming high, and we are definitely capable of playing a lot better, but when you come up against a side that can bring on three substitutes with a combined transfer value of £81,400,000 then you have to accept this type of result will happen sometimes. The tough festive program is now over. Saints can look forward to a kinder fixture list, and hopefully a quick return for our remaining injured players. The long-term outlook is still very good. There's a lot of room for this young side to grow, and there's certainly no need for major surgery in the January window.
Attendance: 31,271 (3,172 Chelsea fans)
Davis: 6. Judged a couple of tricky through balls really well. Shown the wrong way for the third goal, but would be harsh to blame him too much for that one
Chambers: 6. Had the better of Ashley Cole in the first half, but penned back for most of the 2nd
Fonte: 5. Made a few heroic blocks early on, but given the run-around in the second half
Lovren: 5. Far from his best again. Error prone throughout the match
Shaw: 5. Clearly not at 100%. No surprise to see him come off at half-time with a knock
Cork: 7. Was protecting the back four fairly well in another tactically astute showing. One particular sliding tackle in the first half was crucial
Schneiderlin: 6. Linked the ball well when Saints were on top, but uncharacteristically sloppy later in the game
Davis: 7. Covered plenty of ground, contributing at both ends of the pitch
Lallana: 5. A few clever moments, but kept fairly quiet when approaching goal
Ramirez: 6. A good range of passing in the first half. Less effective after the break, but still a couple of moments of quality
Rodriguez: 5. Didn't get on the ball as much as he would have liked
Clyne: 6. Made a couple of really good runs down the left flank
Lambert: 6. Briefly added a bit of life to the attack
Ward-Prowse: A few decent touches, but the game was pretty much gone by the time he came on