Tadic penalty helps Saints take tough away point at Stamford Bridge
Dusan Tadic’s penalty cancelled out an early Diego Costa opener as Chelsea extended their lead in the title race over champions Manchester City to six points, and Jose Mourinho’s men responded to their European exit by drawing with top four hopefuls Southampton.
Jose Fonte did just enough inside five minutes, as the hosts overloaded the right flank with slick interplay between Costa’s supporting cast brought an early glimmer of goal.
A strong Saints defence crumbled after 10 minutes, however, as Costa popped up at the back post to head home Branislav Ivanovic’s cross. Moments later, the Blues needed Thibaut Courtois to deny Sadio Mane after an incisive left-wing move, however.
Referee Mike Dean then awarded Southampton a penalty when Nemanja Matic brought down Mane, who was sandwiched between Chelsea’s two Serbia stars. Compatriot Tadic took the spot kick, going down the middle and Courtois almost kept it out with an outstretched boot, but there was enough on it to find the net and Saints drew level.
Tadic then appeared to clip Ivanvoic in the visiting box, but Dean did not give the Blues a penalty of their own.
Ronald Koeman had a clear game plan for this trip to Stamford Bridge; play in behind Chelsea. Courtois had to be hand to stop Tadic from completing the turnaround with another parrying save.
Matic, booked for conceding the Southampton penalty and later subbed for his own good by Jose Mourinho, was lucky to escape a second yellow for a cynical foul on Mane just after half time. Toby Alderweireld saw the resultant free kick kept out of the top corner by fellow Belgium international Courtois at full stretch.
Costa hit the post at point blank range for the hosts, almost diverting Willian’s cross-shot in with his studs. The Blues needed a heroic block from Gary Cahill after an hour, as Tadic worked an opening for Saints striker Shane Long.
Fraser Forster produced a superb double stop to keep Southampton level, first denying Oscar before reacting quickly to prevent Eden Hazard from turning in the rebound at an oblique angle. England’s understudy goalie had his palms stung by Chelsea’s Brazilian again moments later as well.
Late on, Forster thwarted Cesar Azpilicueta and sub Loic Remy before Saints survived a goalmouth scramble to take a hard-earned point. A share of the spoils does keep them in the race for Champions League football, but how difficult that task will be for Koeman depends on the result between Manchester United and Tottenham.
Mourinho’s men were not at their best here and failed to take full advantage of that shock Man City loss at Burnley, but they remain in pole position to take the title from the Etihad outfit.