A converted free-kick from James Ward-Prowse on the stroke of halftime put the Saints captain a goal behind David Beckham in the competition’s all-time standings, and sent Graham Potter’s side to a fourth straight winless game in the competition. league.

With five of the club’s eight January signings in the starting eleven, Potter saw his side scramble to find any fabrication against a Saints side set up by caretaker boss Ruben Selles to thwart the hosts’ attacking cavalry, costly. gathered. The victory in their first game since the firing of Nathan Jones was all they deserved.

Chelsea have scored just once at home in 2023, and the lack of a recognized striker became painfully apparent once again.

The game began ominously for Potter. Benoit Badiashile, so impressive so far in Chelsea blue, was caught by Kamaldeen Sulemana as the ball fell over his shoulder, only for the Southampton signing in January to refuse to score his first Premier League goal with the foot of Kepa Arrizabalaga. From the follow-on, Kalidou Koulibaly directed Stuart Armstrong’s effort to safety from in front of the goal line.

Southampton’s game plan hinged on frustrating Chelsea by slowing down play wherever possible, but there was little in the first half to suggest that the hosts’ three forward midfielders Mason Mount, Noni Madueke and Joao Félix held the key to unlock the Saints.

Five minutes before halftime, David Fofana, making his Chelsea debut as a starter, fired a shot from 20 meters that revealed more of his team’s first-half frustrations than their attacking ambition.

Southampton took the lead in familiar fashion. Ward-Prowse’s free-kick, the 17th he has scored in the Premier League, could not have been better placed, arcing over the Chelsea wall and landing hard in the bottom corner past Arrizabalaga’s desperation strike. Stamford Bridge, quiet until now, made his displeasure known.

The required response almost came within minutes of the start of the second half. Raheem Sterling, coming on as a substitute to return from injury, pushed Ainsley Maitland-Niles close to the touchline and sent in a cross that Mount, rising higher, failed to connect.

Chelsea-Southampton – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse scores the only goal at Stamford Bridge (Zac Goodwin/PA)

He announced a change in intensity in the Chelsea attack. Minutes later, César Azpilicueta found himself unmarked inside the area, but was only able to deflect his deflected shot when the ball fell. On the hour mark, Graham Potter sent out Kai Havertz and Mykhailo Mudryk to try and harness the newfound energy on his side, as the game switched permanently to Southampton’s defensive half.

Chelsea was getting closer. Havertz broke away down the left and finished for Sterling, reaching the back post to head for the ball; he was first denied by a Romain Perraud aerial block, then again on the rebound by Romeo Lavia. The couple celebrated as if maximum security had already been secured.

Arrizabalaga saved at the feet of Armstrong as the Saints threatened to extend their lead at halftime. There was further concern for Chelsea when Azpilicueta was stretchered off the pitch with an oxygen mask after being hit on the head by Sekou Mara’s boot as he attempted to clear.

But the inspiration for Chelsea did not arrive. Southampton held on for a deserved victory.


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