Saints battle to earn a deserved point at Chelsea
Southampton showed great courage to come-back from two goals down and steal a point at Stamford Bridge last night.
Nigel Adkins fielded a side which saw Jay Rodriquez alone upfront, with Jason Puncheon and Guly Do Prado on either side of a packed midfield. Steven Davis came into the side for Gaston Ramirez, who was named amongst the substitutes with Saints top goalscorer Rickie Lambert.
It was a bitterly cold evening in West London as both sides failed to create any clear cut chances in the opening stages, Chelsea were more dominant in possession but Southampton looked very well set-up defensively.
With Fernando Torres on the bench, the pressure was on Demba Ba to produce the goals for Chelsea and the first came 25 minutes in, Ba showed instinct and athleticism following Cesar Azpilicueta's cross into the box from the right-hand side.
As the half went on, Chelsea continued to pressure Southampton, but Adkins' men were resilient and proved difficult to break down. Jay Rodriguez was outnumbered upfront as Saints attempted a long-ball counter-attacking move in hope of an equaliser.
It was looking as though the Champions of Europe would go in at the break a goal to the good, but Eden Hazard doubled the Blues lead, Saints failed to clear their lines as Ramirez smashed a shot against the bar, the rebound fell straight to Hazard who struck the ball well past Artur Boruc in the Southampton goal.
The game seemed to be over at half-time, Chelsea were looking comfortable with their two-goal lead before the break.
The second half began much like the first had ended, Adkins felt a change was needed though and decided to bring on the leading English scorer in the Premier League, Rickie Lambert for Rodriquez.
It took the talisman just two minutes and 47 seconds to find the net, Nathaniel Clyne beat his man and floated an accurate ball in towards Lambert, who looped a superb header passed Petr Cech.
After the goal, Saints had their tails up and were looking more likely to complete a come-back. The Chelsea fans began to sound more and more frustrated with every pass which didn't reach its target.
Richard Chaplow was introduced to the game for Steven Davis, a change which looked to add some fresh legs for a hard-working Southampton midfield.
With 15 minutes remaining, young Luke Shaw raided forward down the left flank and his cross was allowed to bounce across the edge of the area, where it was met by Puncheon to take a touch and fire a fantastic strike past the helpless Cech.
Frank Lampard had a quiet game for Chelsea, but eyebrows were raised when Benitez decided to hoist him off for Torres with just 10 minutes to go.
Torres went out to the right wing, but had little impact as a substitute. The Southampton fans were making all the noise in the final stages and managed to carry their team over the line to pick up a well-earned point at Stamford Bridge.
The Saints moved up to 15th in the Premier League following the 2-2 draw at Chelsea.