05/01/2013: Saints 1-5 Chelsea

Saints crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, going down 5-1 to Chelsea. The home side had matched their opponents for the first half hour or so, but when the Blues stepped up their game there was only ever going to be one winner.

There was little worthwhile action to report on during the first 20 minutes. Chelsea lacked cohesion to begin with, committing simple errors on the ball. Saints did well to nullify the visitors early on. Steven Davis kept a tight grip on Eden Hazard, while Morgan Schneiderlin tracked Juan Mata. The middle of the park was congested, with both sides struggling to find a way through. That was until the 22nd minute when Saints took the lead. Jason Puncheon played in a quick through ball into the path of Jay Rodriguez, who got away from Gary Cahill before poking past Ross Turnbull. That goal woke the visitors up. Chelsea got better as the half wore on, with Hazard curling just wide on 26 minutes. Saints continued to look good in possession until the 36 minute mark when the away side levelled. Hazard broke down the left before feeding Mata on the edge of the penalty area. Mata drove through the defence before chipping the ball over Artur Boruc. Demba Ba got the final touch on the ball just before it bounced into the back of the net. Chelsea really cranked up the pressure after that goal. The warnings signs were there when Saints struggled to clear a routine ball played across the box just before the break. Then, Chelsea took a priceless half-time lead. Ashley Cole pulled the ball back for Victor Moses, who took a touch before finishing beautifully into the corner of the net.

Saints showed little urgency in the second half and never really looked like getting back into it when Chelsea made it 3-1 on 52 minutes. Mata was given plenty of time and space to cross the ball in from the left for Branislav Ivanovic to head in unchallenged from six yards. Nigel Adkins switched things up slightly, with Steve De Ridder coming on for Schneiderlin. 4-2-3-1 eventually became 4-4-2, but it made little difference. Chelsea were in complete control throughout, even if Saints did manage to conjure up a few half-chances. The visitors made it 4-1 on 61 minutes. Ramires picked out Hazard on the edge of the box, who stroked the ball across goal for Ba to tap in. Jose Fonte was injured for Saints in the build-up. The Portuguese captain looked to be suffering quite badly and had to be stretchered off. Saints had a couple of corners towards the end of the game, but only really tested Turnbull on the 70 minute mark. Guly's excellent cross was met by De Ridder, who had his shot blocked. Davis' follow up was also stopped by Turnbull. Chelsea then hit Saints on the break, with Boruc making an instinctive save with his legs from Ba at the far post. On 81 minutes Davis was deemed to have handled in the penalty area, when the ball hand actually hit him in the chest. Substitute Frank Lampard stepped up and sent Boruc the wrong way to make it 5-1.

Not much to shout about from a Saints perspective. Adkins named a fairly strong team, but the lack of energy exerted when the game was out of reach suggested that this fixture was very low down on the list of priorities. With Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana and Nataniel Clyne injured it was always going to be a struggle against a very strong Chelsea team. Rickie Lambert was the only other player rested, and his replacement scored. Perhaps even worse than the result was the injury suffered to Fonte. Saints can't afford to lose too many players to injury. We simply don't have the depth to cover them. Assuming Fonte is out for the foreseeable future then we need to act very quickly in the transfer market.

Attendance: 27,813 (4,592 Chelsea fans)

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. A few shaky moments early on. Would be harsh to blame him too much for the goals. Pulled off one really good save from Ba in the second half. Distribution excellent

Cork: 5. Nowhere near the level of his Arsenal performance. Caught out for the first Chelsea goal

Fonte: 5. Well below his best before being stretchered off

Yoshida: 5. Struggled to cope with Chelsea's rapid movement

Shaw: 7. Didn't look out of place coming up against Chelsea's big guns. Put in some great challenges and made some decent driving runs forward

Schneiderlin: 7. Looked pretty sharp.

Davis: 6. Defensively sound early on, but lost his discipline somewhat later in the game

Ward-Prowse: 5. Looked a bit rusty, struggled to assert himself on the game

Puncheon: 6. The pass for the goal was first class. Reluctance to shoot is sometimes frustrating

Guly: 6. Provided some decent crosses, but not quite at the level of previous outings

Rodriguez: 6. Started very brightly and took his goal really well. With Chelsea so dominant he was never going to see much of the ball in the second half

Substitutes:

De Ridder: 5. The occasional flash of quality, but by and large very disappointing

Hooiveld: 5. Didn't really fare much better than the man he replaced

Lee: Made a few decent runs. Good to see him back in first team action