Stand-in Chelsea captain Branislav Ivanovic headed in a crucial 89th-minute winner to seal his side an undeserved win that sees the Blues move up to 11th place.
Southampton, who bossed 75 minutes of the match in attack and defence, grabbed a deserved goal when Long capitalised on Rahman’s loose pass and Courtois’ indecisiveness.
But when Fabregas pulled one back with a quarter of an hour to play, the Blues sensed the game was there for the taking and Koeman will be livid to see his side let Ivanovic free from a corner with a minute to play.
It means the Blues continue to grind out the points but are still some 11 points off fourth-placed Manchester City having played a game more.
Things arguably could not have got off to a worse start for Chelsea, when Pedro pulled up injured after just six minutes. With Southampton playing with three defenders, Pedro’s pace would have added great dimension to Chelsea’s width, something his replacement Oscar would not be able to offer.
Chelsea needed to map out another route to goals, but first had to be wary of defending their own goal. Courtois was looking shaky from back-to-back Southampton corners, where Shane Long most definitely should have headed in.
Davis and Austin worked up a shooting opportunity when not charged down in a central position outside the penalty area, but their play had width too with the wing-backs and Targett was utilising the space vacated to whip in a fabulous ball but to no avail.
It was clear that Southampton were eager to challenge Chelsea aeirally, whilst Chelsea wanted to go as route-one as possible. Time and again Willian and Fabregas tried the quick lobbed pass to Costa but, if they were not off-target, they were mostly stopped by ex-Chelsea man Romeu or Sean Davis, who were quick to pounce on Fabregas every time he has the ball. Davis picked up a yellow card for his troubles.
Chelsea’s first shot on target came in the 27th minute but Forster stopped and held a long-range Oscar shot with Costa ready to pounce.
Austin again had an opportunity to turn and shoot with Mikel and Fabregas nowhere, but his counterpart would score the opening goal just before half-time.
Rahman had time, perhaps too much, to control a bouncing ball and opted to head to Cahill but Long raced in between and gathered the limp header. A touch too heavy looked to have been an easy smother for the out-coming Courtois but the Belgian was not menacing enough and Long, as cool as you like, lobbed the ball past Courtois.
Rahman was punished for his crimes by being hauled off at half-time for Kenedy, but Chelsea needed injection at the other end.
It was not going to come through Mikel, but should have, when the Nigerian headed wide with a free header from three yards out. Well wide.
Hazard’s cross on the hour-mark was a peach but Costa was not on hand for a single tap-in.
Meanwhile Chelsea had to be careful at the other end as a long ball saw Austin in, and Cahill was certainly clumsy in hauling the Southampton striker down for a very legitimiate penalty claim.
But Southampton’s resolve would not last much longer after 74 minutes.
Hazard started the move by finding Costa, who kept the ball in and found Fabregas, whose cross was meant for Hazard who had raced into the box, but needed no diversion and nestled past the confused Forster.
Then Chelsea started to dominate. Willian went on a mazy run and was inches away from scoring after cutting in from the left, whilst Oscar tried another long-range shot.
The winner would come from one of Chelsea’s more seasoned professionals, with Ivanovic getting ahead of his marker to nod home a precious goal.
The Blues will play again in 72 hours’ time at Norwich.
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Man of the Match
BRANISLAV IVANOVIC: No-one excelled in a Chelsea shirt at all today but Ivanovic deserves credit for leading the line by example by still giving 100% effort until the last minute, as shown by his 89th-minute goal. The Serb was the sturdier of the two defenders today as Cahill struggled to get to grips with Austin but Ivanovic was a good presence. 7/10
Hiddink was relieved: “I think it was a deserved win for us. They haven’t conceded in the last six, seven games so it was successful for us. We had a setback when we went 1-0 down — it was a present from our defence — but we did very well in the second half. We were well organised and then got the goals.”
Koeman was left pondering what might have been: “We had lead before half-time, which is always good, we defended well and they didn’t create a lot. But I think the problem in the second half was we didn’t have domination and went back too much, letting them have more ball possession.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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