|Following the return of Stuart Armstrong from International duty with Scotland, after testing positive for Covid-19, Ralph decided that he was going to throw Theo Walcott straight into the team following his return to the club on loan from Everton. With Djenepo suffering an injury, Nathan Redmond was recalled to the starting line up. Otherwise the team was the same at the one that faced West Brom in the last game.
There was a certain excitement in seeing Theo back in Saints colours, tinged with the thought that he has probably lost a lot of the speed on which his performances have hinged in the past. The unknown was how his experience might offset this.
On the bench for this game was 21 year old midfielder Ibrahima Diallo, the summer signing from Brest, who has yet to play for the club. One slightly concerning thing is, that in 50 senior appearances for Brest in the French Ligue 1, apparently he hasn't scored a single goal. Maybe that is more of a reflection on the club, rather than the player? I guess we will find out soon enough.
Yannik Vestergaard headed home from Theo Walcott's shot to equalise in the 92nd minute of this thrilling game.
IBO Reporter : channonite
|All the pre-match build up on BTSport didn't prepare me for the way the first half went (I am joking, there was no pre-match build up! If you logged on before 2.55pm, you saw a welcome screen informing you that coverage would start five minutes before kick off. It was 'Pay Per View' for £14.95 as well. Hopeless.), as within the first couple of minutes, McCarthy had to make a crucial couple of saves. The first from Chilwell, which the Saints keeper could only parry away and the second an instant later, when Havertz volleyed the rebound.
Saints just couldn't get hold of the ball in this period and after a prolonged period of Chelsea passing Werner had the ball in the net, only to have the linesman flag it as offside.
The German striker didn't have long to wait for his first League goal for Chelsea, when he scored a very good goal, following a quick break from a rare Saints attack. Receiving the ball midway in the Southampton half, he sold a dummy to Bednarek and raced on. Vestergaard closed him down and Werner was forced to run across the edge of the penalty area, parallel to McCarthy's goal. Even with five Saints defenders, plus McCarthy between him and the net, he sent a right foot shot through the narrowest of gaps and it was 1-0. That's why Chelsea paid so much for him. Impressive and he is going to cause a lot of other teams problems defending against him.
Just over ten minutes later Werner was at it again, when a long pass from Jorginho dropped right in his path and again he got goal side of Bednarek, lobbed the ball over the head of the advancing McCarthy, raced around the keeper and then headed the ball into an empty net. 2-0 and not even half an hour gone.
There were probably a lot of Saints supporters thinking that this was going to be a long, long afternoon, such was the ease with which Chelsea had opened us up, time and again. The 2020 version of Saints is made of sterner stuff however and they redoubled their efforts and began to see more of the ball. You just felt that the next goal would be crucial. If the home side scored it would effectively end the contest, but if the visitors could get a goal back before halftime, then they would be right back in it.
Just a couple of minutes from the break Saints had a throw in, but immediately lost the ball. Showing dogged determination the visitors were scrapping for everything and eventually, the persistence of Adams paid off and he came out of a crowd of players in possession. He was having a really good game, like a terrier and as quick as a flash, he threaded a pass through the defenders to Ings, who rounded the keeper and passed into an empty net. 2-1 and yes, Saints were back in it and it would change the whole nature of the halftime talk.
From the restart, you just sensed that the players in red and white were really up for it, there was a fresh intensity to their play and from one passage of play, involving most of those players, Danny Ings flashed a shot tantalisingly close to the far post.
Almost immediately came an example of why I really like Ché Adams. Romeu sent a pass from deep inside Saints half, for Adams to chase down. Zouma actually got to the ball first, but Adams was breathing down his neck, the Chelsea man chose to pass back to the advancing keeper. Rather bizarrely Kepa choose to crouch and sweep at the ball with his left foot. Unfortunately for him, he missed and just clipped Adams enough to make him stumble, but he recovered quickly. The ball was meanwhile rolling just wide to the right of the goal and Adams, together with an onrushing defender arrived all together just before the line, the end result was like the Keystone Cops as various players, including Danny Ings, all tried to get possession. By far the fastest to react was Ché Adams, who swivelled and crashed the loose ball into the roof of the net. Persistence wins. All square now at 2-2, with plenty of time left to get the winner.
I enjoyed that thought for about two minutes, as Chelsea swept down to the other end and with some neat interplay between Chelsea's German recruits, Werner and Havertz, with the latter having a simple job of tapping into the net past a wrong footed McCarthy. 3-2. Bugger.
As I have said, this team is made of stronger stuff and rather than buckle, they got stuck in. It was around now that Redmond and Walcott swapped sides and it seemed to work for Theo, as he started to cause the Chelsea defenders all sorts of problems. Ralph made three substitutions either side of the 80 minute mark, withdrawing Redmond, Romeu and Adams, sending on Tella, Diallo (His first appearance for the club) and Long. The end result was Theo playing in a more central position and every time he got possession he simply ran straight at the defenders. More and more you felt a goal was coming.
Deep into stoppage time Saints won a free kick wide on the left. Bertrand sent a hanging ball into the area where a blue shirt headed it away, straight to Theo Walcott on the edge of the area, who fair hammered a shot goalwards. My impression at the time was that it was going wide, that was until the moment Vestergaard bent down and just got a head to it. Kepa was deceived and it was in the back of the net. 3-3. Wow! What a game. Saints were ecstatic and Chelsea were despondent.
That felt like a win in the end, rather than just a solitary point for the draw. Lots of positives to take from this game. Theo looks like he might be a success and I know it was only a few minutes, but I also liked the look of Diallo.
Man of the Match
I see the BBC gave the Man of the Match award to Danny Ings. Yes, I understand that, but they were clearly blinded by him to have noticed yet another outstanding game from Ché Adams, which this time included a goal. In fact both strikers had a good game and they now have a clear understanding of each other. I reckon that they are now arguably one of the best partnerships in the Premier League and are still getting better. So I am going to give a joint Man of the Match to Ché Adams and Danny Ings.