Southampton made it an Easter weekend to remember by securing back-to-back victories with an impressive victory over the Blues at St Mary’s.
Memories of a 5-1 defeat in the FA Cup less than three months ago were firmly eradicated thanks to a solid all round performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who followed up their 3-1 success over Liverpool with another big win in front of their home supporters.
Saints took the lead with 23 minutes on the watch when Jay Rodriguez kept his cool to finish a masterful one-two with Steven Davis which put the hosts on their way.
Less than ten minutes later John Terry levelled the scores with a firm header from a Marko Marin corner, but almost immediately Rickie Lambert restored the home side’s advantage through a thumping 25 yard free-kick which fully warranted all three points on its own.
The Liverpudlian’s match-winning strike was the striker’s 14th goal of the season on his 500th career league appearance, as Saints secured their first ever win over the Blues at St Mary’s to move up to 12th in the Barclays Premier League table.
Saints: Boruc (K. Davis 46), Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Puncheon (Ward-Prowse 62), Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Fox 84), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs (not used): Fonte, Ramirez, Forren, Guly
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Azpilicueta, Bertrand, Mikel (Ramires 72), Oscar (Benayoun 76), Marin (Hazard 60), Lampard, Moses, Torres. Subs (not used): Turnbull, Cole, Luiz, Ba.
Referee: Jon Moss
Attendance: 31,779 (including 3,181 away)
Adam Lallana missed out with a groin injury as Saints were forced into one of two changes from the side that beat Liverpool. Gaston Ramirez’s late arrival back from international duty saw him begin from the bench.
Steven Davis and Jason Puncheon returned to the starting eleven in their places.
Visitors Chelsea, in their traditional blue and white kit, got the contest underway with Saints in red defending the Chapel stand on a dull, but mild afternoon inside St Mary’s.
Within the opening two minutes of action Saints created their first half-chance of the afternoon when Lambert nodded Hooiveld’s long ball into the path of Rodriguez, but the forward couldn’t keep his shot down as his effort cleared the bar.
A fiercely competitive start to proceedings saw the hosts take the game to their opponents with some industrious attacking moves beginning from deep that had Chelsea chasing shadows, particularly through the middle.
On nine minutes, Rodriguez cleverly lofted the ball over Terry on halfway before running through on goal, but his tame strike was easy for Petr Cech to gather.
Despite brief pressure from the blues, Saints stepped it up a gear with Puncheon going on to dribble his way through, only to be challenged at the last as he went to shoot.
In the next move, a Clyne cross from the right was diverted into the path of Lambert, but with the angle against the forward, his shot was kept out by a sea of Chelsea bodies.
On 23 the goal that the hosts had been promising arrived and in terrific style too. The goal scorer started and finished the move as RODRIGUEZ collected the ball from Jos Hooiveld before playing a delightful one-two with Steven Davis to slide the ball into the bottom right corner of Cech’s net.
Two minutes later, the visitors thought they’d equalised when Fernando Torres broke free from Hooiveld to finish neatly past Boruc, but the eagle-eyed officials had correctly spotted a handball from the striker in the build-up to the strike.
The home side continued to cause Chelsea problems through midfield, but the Blues responded with a series of long balls forward, the latter of which fell to Victor Moses who forced Boruc into a fingertip save from an angle.
The resulting set-piece saw Chelsea draw level as Marko Marin’s corner was firmly headed past Boruc by skipper John TERRY with 32 minutes on the watch.
But the teams were level for just two minutes as Saints restored their lead in emphatic fashion with a stunning long range free-kick from LAMBERT. The set-piece was awarded for a foul five yards out from the edge of the area in a central position, and the striker curled home his 14th strike of the season in style.
Having regained their lead, Saints re-established their foothold on the contest in all areas of the field as the visitors were forced into a waiting game to have possession of the ball again.
Inside the closing stages of the half the hosts maintained their pressure on the Blues who were unable to test Saints again before the break.
Half Time: Saints 2-1 Chelsea
Saints changed ‘keepers for the start of the second half as Kelvin Davis came on for Artur Boruc though there were no obvious signs of an injury to the Pole in the opening 45.
The hosts began the second half in the ascendancy though as they started in the same manner as they had ended the first.
A free-kick from Steven Davis into the area was partially cleared, and Clyne followed up to test Cech at his near post with a thunderous low drive that the ‘keeper just got to with a block.
As expected, the Blues came out fired up for the second period and began to turn the screw in attack, but they were presented with a sea of red shirts almost every time they tried to break forward.
Saints were grateful to Kelvin Davis on 58 though when Azpilicueta laid the ball into the path of Moses whose high effort appeared to have enough on it to beat the ‘keeper, but the club captain produced a terrific one-handed save to keep the shot out.
On the hour mark Eden Hazard was introduced in place of Marin as the Blues sought an extra dimension on the flanks, which the tricky Belgian could offer.
Two minutes later, James Ward-Prowse came on for the hosts as Puncheon made way moments after being clattered by Terry as he drove towards goal. Teenager Ward-Prowse was quick to get his first touch too, laying the ball comfortably into Clyne on the right flank.
Rodriguez headed over from a corner before forcing Cech into another save with a low shot that Ward-Prowse was unfortunate not to pick up the rebound from as Terry blocked the midfielder’s path inside the area.
Former Burnley man Rodriguez was causing problems for the Chelsea backline each time he broke through, but it was full back Luke Shaw who almost found a decisive way through when he got into the area only to be blocked at the last by Azpilicueta.
Another strong break from the hosts came to an end when Ivanovic tidied up inside the area.
That preceded a second change for the visitors who switched Ramires for John Obi Mikel in midfield on 72 minutes.
The Blues had Torres booked before making their final change soon after when Yossi Benayoun came on for Oscar.
As the last quarter of an hour kicked in, Chelsea became more fluid in attack to try and tease an opening against the nine Saints outfield players who were in their own half, with Lambert leading the line.
Steven Davis was withdrawn with Danny Fox replacing him for the final six minutes or so to try and see out the contest as the Blues showed no signs of letting up late on.
Lampard hit a dangerous looking free-kick over the bar prior to four minutes of stoppage time added on by the officials, but there were no further dramas for the hosts as they toasted a sixth home success of the season.
Full Time: Saints 2-1 Chelsea