Saints bowed out of the FA Cup at the third round stage for only the second time in nine seasons after defeat to the current holders.
A powerful and clinical display from Chelsea, particularly in the second half, saw Rafael Benitez’s side turn in a classy performance overall, which left Saints facing up to a first defeat of 2013.
It was a result that seemed unlikely in the opening 45 minutes when Nigel Adkins’ men had the European champions on the rails with a hard working performance which culminated in Jay Rodriguez’s 21st minute strike that started the cup tie’s scoring.
However, fifteen minutes later, the Champions of Europe hit back with a debut goal for Demba Ba which was added to by a Victor Moses goal on half time which gave the visitors a boost.
Branislav Ivanovic headed home shortly into the second period, before Ba celebrated his second of the game as Chelsea all but secured their place in the fourth round with half an hour to play.
Substitute Frank Lampard contributed a fifth goal from the spot late on from what appeared a harsh penalty decision against Steven Davis as Saints tasted a heavy first ever loss to the Blues in the famous competition.
Saints: Boruc, Cork, Fonte (Hooiveld 64), Yoshida, Shaw, Puncheon (Lee 77), S. Davis, Schneiderlin (De Ridder 54), Ward-Prowse, Guly, Rodriguez. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Lambert, Mayuka, Reeves.
Chelsea: Turnbull, Ivanovic (Lampard 65), Cole, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ramires, Mata (Oscar 78), Moses (Marin 73), Hazard, Ba. Subs (not used): Hilario, Torres, Ferreira, Bertrand.
Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 27, 813 (including 4592 away)
Nigel Adkins made two changes to the team that started against Arsenal on New Year’s Day with Jay Rodriguez and James Ward-Prowse coming into the side in place of Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez.
There was a landmark occasion in the Saints side with Guly making his 100th appearance for the club.
Saints, in their predominantly white strip, got the third round tie underway attacking the Northam stand on a cool and clear day inside St Mary’s.
The contest began at a high tempo with both teams aiming to impress with a quick start.
It was the hosts who appeared to settle fastest though, with Morgan Scneiderlin in the thick of the action early on. First, he slid in on Ashley Cole to thwart a break from the visitors, before the Frenchman then set Jay Rodriguez through on goal, only for Branislav Ivanovic to clear Chelsea’s lines.
In contrast, the Blues caused little trouble for Saints at the other end. The mercurial Juan Mata won a seventh minute corner which David Luiz blazed over from, before Fonte intercepted a Victor Moses cross, as the hoists repelled Rafa Benitez’s side’s initial advances.
There remained a true cup tie feel to the game though as both teams pushed for the breakthrough goal with the action flowing from end to end with the creative duo of Hazard and Moses starting to see more of the ball for the Blues.
But Saints kept their composure and struck the game’s opening goal on 21 minutes. A move which started from the back saw Puncheon deliver an inviting diagonal pass out to the left side of the area was latched on to by RODRIGUEZ who kept his cool to slot home a shot into the bottom right corner of Ross Turnbull’s goal for 1-0.
Visitors Chelsea remained comparatively quiet in the final third, but went close to levelling up in the 26th minute when Eden Hazard curled a terrific strike inches wide of Artur Boruc’s left post, though the Polish stopper appeared to have his corner covered as he sprung across his line to try and save it.
Saints continued to look the more assured side in possession, with Shaw, Ward-Prowse and Puncheon combining for a fine flowing move on the half hour which just came up short, but the invention was warmly appreciated by the home crowd.
Adkins’ side had held firm until the 36th minute, when a divine piece of play from the visitors brought the holders back on level terms.
A clever flick from Moses on the left side set Mata free, and the Spaniard’s drive forward drew Boruc from his line, with the ball falling to Chelsea debutant Demba BA who stuck it into the roof of the net under pressure from Steven Davis on the goal line.
Boruc kept a low drive from Moses out at his near post, before gathering Cesar Azpilicueta’s strike from distance at the second attempt.
Chelsea turned the screw towards the end of the half, and their efforts were rewarded as the game entered two minutes of stoppage time. A cut back from the left touchline by Ashley Cole found MOSES who crashed home a fine rising strike into the far right corner for 2-1 with the half time whistle arriving soon after.
Half Time: Saints 1-2 Chelsea
There were no changes made by either manager at the break as the visitors, defending their slender lead, got the second 45 underway.
Both teams maintained their attacking intent at the start of the new half, with Chelsea picking up form where they left off with a bombardment down the flanks as Mata and Hazard became more involved.
The Blues’ persistence paid off when focal point Mata, crossed from the left and IVANOVIC was on hand inside the six yard area to head home at the near post for 3-1.
Saints withdrew Schneiderlin in favour of Steve De Ridder on 54 a move which enabled Guly to move into his favoured central role behind Rodriguez.
Chelsea turned on the style to make it 4-1 on the hour mark when another slick move this time, involving Ramires and Hazard appeared to effortlessly create a dream ball into the path of BA who grabbed his second of the game with a close range finish under Boruc.
There was further bad news for the hosts as Fonte left the field on a stretcher having picked up an injury in trying to prevent the goal. Jos Hooiveld was the replacement for the injured centre back, with Steven Davis taking over the captain’s armband.
The visitors brought Frank Lampard on for Ivanovic as the visitors overloaded their midfield to restrict Saints.
That move almost backfired immediately when Guly’s dangerous cross into the middle found its way to De Ridder who was blocked by Turnbull on the goal line, before the keeper recovered to deny a low drive from Steven Davis.
At the other end, Moses delivered a terrific cross for Ba who was looking to complete his hat-trick, but Boruc denied him with a fine block on the goal line.
Chelsea’s second substitution saw Moses replaced by Marko Marin on 73 minutes, but it was the former sub Lampard who almost extended the Blues’ lead with a low drive which Boruc blocked,
Saints pushed on again to try and reduce the deficit with Davis winning a corner which De Ridder headed wide from.
Puncheon was then brought off inside the final quarter of an hour, with Tadanari Lee making his way onto the field. Chelsea followed suit with Oscar replacing Mata.
Just inside the last ten minutes, the visitors were awarded a penalty when Lampard’s attempted pass was adjudged to have been handled by Davis. LAMPARD stepped up himself to take the spot kick and made it 5-1 by sending Boruc the wrong way.
Late on, David Luiz tested Boruc with a header from a corner, whilst Hooiveld struck wide at the other end in a drab finale to a pulsating contest which saw the holders progress at Saints’ expense.
Full Time: Saints 1-5 Chelsea