Chelsea began their hectic Easter fixture list with a loss as Southampton added more woes onto the Blues’ season.
Rodriguez’s opener was cancelled out emphatically by John Terry, but the old adage of “a team is most vulnerable just after they’ve scored” proved true, as Lambert’s instantly fired a free-kick home.
Despite that, there was still the best part of an hour of action to go, but the Blues sunk where renewed energy was needed, and it means the Blues are now just 2 points away from slipping outside of the Champions League qualification places.
Chelsea have never liked going behind — the last time Chelsea won a Premier League away game when losing at half time was August 2009 against Sunderland — yet the desire to score the vital first goal is time and again conspicuous by its absence.
Southampton dictated the opening stages and seemed fresher of the two sides, perhaps due to Chelsea’s superstars being flown around the globe during the international break.
Jay Rodriguez’s opening chance was a sign of things to come, but Rickie Lambert and Clyne too tested Chelsea, particularly down Chelsea’s left.
Rafa Benitez, with not just one but seemingly both eyes on Monday’s FA Cup replay against Manchester United, opted for the weak left-side of Ryan Bertrand and Marko Marin, which Southampton exploited to the best of their knowledge.
The first goal came half-way through the first half. Rodriguez passed to Davis on the edge of the box, and the favour was returned with a neat one-two, and the 23-year-old put the ball past Cech.
Chelsea have the worst accuracy from corners out of all the Premier League’s sides, but when Marko Marin swung one in ten minutes later, there was a John Terry there to passionately head home.
It appeared the early cobwebs had been dusted and Chelsea would go on to control the match. How wrong that judgement would prove to be.
John Obi Mikel fouled Lambert as soon as play restarted, and 30 yards from goal, the Englishman’s delightful free-kick sailed over the hapless wall and past Cech’s flapping right hand. Chelsea barely had time to comprehend what had happened to them, as Southampton restored their advantage.
Southampton, knowing this result would mean they leapfrog Aston Villa into 12th, ran the midfield in a second half where more Chelsea urgency was expected.
Lampard did have a chance to score but failed despite the offside flag. Torres had the ball in the net himself, but a foul had been called earlier.
Hazard’s arrival on the hour mark was to inject some rhythm in a side that looks staggeringly lost without Mata or the Belgian himself, but even the 21-year-old could not single-handedly inspire a squad so abject under Rafael Benitez.
Rodriguez ought to have recorded a brace here had his header been on target, whilst Hazard wriggled his way into the box with no end product.
Lampard had a free-kick sail over the bar, but it was not to be Chelsea’s day. Oscar and Cech both went on record to state this week could define Chelsea’s season. The race for fourth place hots up, whilst the FA Cup and Europa League are still present, but with more dire performances like these, Chelsea will struggle.
- Southampton 2 Chelsea 1 – match report: Rafa Benitez’s side undone by Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert goals despite John Terry header (dailymail.co.uk)
- Southampton 2 Chelsea 1: Rickie Lambert goal gives Saints shock win (standard.co.uk)