Saints secured another massive win against European Champions Chelsea. Mauricio Pochettino's men put in an exciting display, limiting their opponents with a fine collective effort. The win puts Saints up to 12th.
Both sides played it fairly cautiously it the early going. Saints employed a patient passing game, but soon upped the tempo. Jay Rodriguez had the first major chance on 9 minutes, flicking the ball over the Chelsea defence, before embarking on a run towards the edge of the box. Unfortunately his subsequent shot was far too weak to trouble Petr Cech. Nathaniel Clyne created the next major opening with a run down the right. The ball eventually found its way to Rickie Lambert who had his shot blocked. Saints took a deserved lead in the 23rd minute. A swift attacking move resulted in a one-two between Steven Davis and Rodriguez. The former Burnley man lost his marker and beat the offside trap before calmly finishing past Cech.
The goal was not too dissimilar to the opener against the same opponents in the FA Cup tie back in January, and was scored at almost the exact same point in the game. Thankfully the response from Saints was slightly better this time around, however. Many would have feared the worst when John Terry headed a 33rd minute equaliser, though. Terry got away from Jos Hooiveld in the box, before nodding past Boruc. Saints hit back instantly. Rickie Lambert netted a free-kick for the second consecutive match. There was an element of good fortune involved in the Liverpool goal, but that certainly wasn't the case this time around. Lambert's technique was pretty much perfect. The ball swerved brilliantly over the wall and into the back of the net. Saints ended the half strong, while Chelsea created precious little from open play.
Chelsea were in control for much of the second half, but failed to test substitute keeper Kelvin Davis too often. Saints sat back and played very narrow, denying Chelsea space in and around the box. When Rafa Benitez sent Eden Hazard on Pochettino reacted immediately with a change of his own. James Ward-Prowse was brought on for Jason Puncheon, with Steven Davis moving to the left to protect Luke Shaw, who had occasionally been left slightly exposed. Morgan Schneiderlin also drifted to that side, in a further effort to nullify the Belgian. For all Chelsea's pressure it was Saints who had the better of the second half chances. Ward-Prowse and Rodriguez could have wrapped it up, but the game would remain in the balance until the final whistle. Davis brilliantly tipped the ball over from Moses. There were plenty of nervy moments, but whenever Chelsea got close to goal, Saints got enough bodies in the way to alleviate any danger. Danny Fox replaced the tiring Davis on 84, adding further defensive solidity to that left-hand side. Saints killed off the game perfectly during stoppage time, earning a priceless three points.
Not quite as dominant as the Liverpool and Man City games, but a great win and a superb performance, nonetheless. Saints played some scintillating attacking football in the first half and were near perfect as a collective defensive unit in the second. It did help that Chelsea rested a number of key players, but there's nothing to suggest we wouldn't have picked up all three points no matter who we were playing against. Pochettino has really stamped his mark on this team. A few months ago winning against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City would have been almost unthinkable. Not only have we beaten them, we've done it in some style. Make no mistake this is a great time to be a Saints fan. We're up to 12th, but only four points above the drop zone so there's still work to do. Once we've picked up the necessary points we can start looking forward to an exciting future under Pochettino.
Attendance: 31,779 (3,181 Chelsea fans)
Boruc: 6. Was rarely tested in the first half, but always looked comfortable before he had to come off
Clyne: 8. Not many players who are as consistent. Patrolled the right hand side brilliantly as always
Hooiveld: 7. Lost his man for the Chelsea goal, but otherwise pretty solid throughout
Yoshida: 8. Didn't do a lot wrong. Superb reading of the game. Strong in the air and on the ground
Shaw: 7. Made a number of mistakes in the first half, giving the ball away far too many times. Did improve after the break, making some good forward runs and defending well
Cork: 8. Showed his former employers that he is more than capable of playing at the very highest level. Like a magnet to the ball
Schneiderlin: 8. Tactically superb throughout
Puncheon: 7. Another hard-working display
Davis: 8. A great box-to-box showing, sealed with a fine assist
Rodriguez: 8. Flourishing under Pochettino. Has the makings of a star. A constant threat; superb movement
Lambert: 8. What more can you say? Another fine goal and a great all-round display
Davis: 6. Distribution was a bit rusty, but save from Moses was crucial
Ward-Prowse: 6. Added a bit more energy
Fox: A very good cameo. Helped play out time