IBO Reporter : Spot51
|So, the teams are out – frightening. It would be a tough game to face the 9 on Chelsea’s bench let alone the 11 on the park. Mendy is back in goal for them and Azpulicueta and Alonso continue their revival. The front 3 of Mount, Abraham and Werner will be difficult to stop.
Ralph has not selected Stephens. Looks like Bednarek will go to right back and Salisu will play alongside JV. No sign of Armstrong so Djenepo and Redmond both start! Adams still on the bench. Alfa makes his 150th Saints appearance today – 200 in the EPL if you include the 50 he played for Chelsea. Well done sir!
BT have Joe Cole as studio pundit and Glenda joins Darren Fletcher. The white ball is back so it must be Spring! First few minutes saw both sides testing each other out. Then Rudiger goes down against Danny and is given a free kick. The first shy at goal arrives on 6m when Mount found James whose cross reached Alonso who lashed his shot back but wide of the far post.
On 8m, Werner broke down their left but Salisu came across to tackle and win the throw. In Chelsea’s next attack Salisu again came out with the ball before being fouled by Abraham. Chelsea rarely let us have the ball but Saints kept their shape well and, when Kante sent a cross in from their left, McCarthy rose to grab it.
I quite liked Mason Mount until the commentator outed him as a Skate. On 15m Saints finally got hold of the ball and passed it round at the back for a while. Then Chelsea were attacking again: Mount played in Werner but the German’s pass to Alonso had too much on it – Goal kick.
With 20m gone, nothing much had happened. That must be good - I think. On 22m Zouma hit a long ball out to Alonso but he was closed down by Djenepo for a corner. Chelsea wasted it, playing it short before delivering a long, looping cross right into McC’s gloves.
A quarter of the game gone, Chelsea with 86% possession but still 0-0. Alonso needed treatment for a turned ankle but was able to carry on. I was just writing that there had been no shots on target when, on 29m, Rudiger took a long-range pot which McC easily collected.
Salisu was playing a blinder, looking like he’d been playing all season. He was rarely troubled and, when he was, Big Jannick was there to help out. Saints had hardly troubled the Chelsea defence but suddenly, on 33m, Redmond collected the ball in midfield. Looking up, he saw Minimino cut in from the left and drilled a perfectly weighted pass into his path. Azpilicueta tracked the Japan international’s run but the attacker controlled the ball as defender and keeper closed in Minimino sat them both on their arses before lifting the ball into the net. 1-0 Saints.
Tuchel looked as though he’d just found a turd in his pocket but the home team were visibly lifted by the goal. Djenepo was caught late by Werner and VAR looked at possible serious foul play. Nothing doing of course, plus a free kick to Chelsea (Apparently Werner was out of control after being tripped by Alfa!)
Alonso’s free kick reached Zouma whose header was turned away by McC – but the officials ignored the fact big Zouma was one of several blue shirts who’d run offside. Thankfully, Chelsea did nothing with the corner. Moments later Djenepo was felled again – this time by the studs of Kante. Surprise, surprise – VAR failed to see serious foul play again. Funny how our players immediately see red cards as soon as their studs make contact with anything! Bastards!
In the 3 added minutes it began to rain but there was still time for Salisu to take the ball off Abraham and belt it clear. Half time: 1-0 to the Good Guys!
Abraham was sat in the stands with an ice pack on his knee when the second half began, Hudson Odoi was his replacement and he, Mount and Werner took turns at being centre forward. Chelsea’s first attack saw Alonso breaking forward until (about 40 seconds later) the offside flag went up.
On 48m, Werner was out wide and sent in a teasing cross but Salisu took control, winning and clearing the ball. Werner, again, cut in from the left but stuck the ball in the side netting. A minute later Chelsea won a corner. The ball reached Mount who tried to step past Danny who brought him down. Penalty signalled the ref: “Never” I shouted at the TV. Then I saw the replay and the ball had gone when Danny stuck his boot in. Makes a change to get a kosher penalty given against us. The Skate waited for McC to dive then rolled it in the other corner. 53m gone and 1-1.
Saints fans are conditioned to expect the team to perform their usual second half collapse but, to be fair, it never came. We stayed in the match. We did our jobs and kept their stars from performing like stars. Indeed, we even enjoyed a bit of possession ourselves.
On 56m Danny got down the left, seeking Redmond’s run but playing the ball behind him. Up the other end, JWP fouled Mount giving them a free kick about 22 yards out. Prowsey would have scored but Alonso hit his shot into the wall and Saints got it away. On the hour JWP nearly got Redmond in but Zouma planted his huge frame in the way and saw the ball out.
Saints were at last seeing a bit of the ball but did nothing till on 69m Minimino sent Bertie down the wing. Zouma headed out for Saints’ first corner. Not one of JWP’s best – right into the keeper’s gloves. Kovacic generously gave us another on the right with his overhit back pass. This one cleared the box where it was recovered by Redmond. He sent the ball back in where Vestergaard met it and crashed his header against the bar. How close was that FFS?
On 73m McC produced the save of the match from Mount’s shot only for the eventual flag for Hudson Odoi being offside. A minute later Hudson Odoi won a Chelsea corner off Salisu. Again, the ball reached Mount but Redmond got in the way to block his effort.
Hudson Odoi was then hooked as Ziyech and Jorginho replaced him and Kovacic. At the same time Tella came on for Minamino. The Chelsea then too up siege positions round our box but first Romeu then Bertie stopped their crosses coming in. Chelsea then won a corner which was cleared but they sent it back into the mixer where Azpilicueta was offside.
Alonso got the first card of the game for pulling back Djenepo who had just gone by him. On his next run the Malian went by four of them before being brought down by Jorginho. He fell awkwardly and needed the medics on before the game could continue.
On 84m Mount got down their left before picking out James coming in from his wing. The defender opted for the stylish volley but sent the ball well wide. A minute later, Ings was replaced by Adams. Chelsea were looking dangerous again but Salisu was able to get the ball out for a corner. Ziyech was now taking them but Djenepo got his cross away. As ever, the ball ended up with Mount who lashed his shot high over the bar.
Mount then nutmegged Bednarek but his cross was cleared by Vestergaard. With time running out, Glenda made Salisu his Man of the Match and Telkla went down after a clash with Kante. In added time, McC was carded for timewasting before Tella went up the other end and won a corner. We wasted time with the corner before Ralph sent on Big Dan for Redmond.
We went beyond 94 minutes and I was wondering if Mr Taylor was waiting for Chelsea to score. But no – the final whistle went and the rot was stopped. It wasn’t a great game but we scored a great goal and played our socks off to hang on for the point. Good work Saints!
Man of the Match
There some much better performances by Saints players today. We defended well and despite Chelsea’s possession restricted them to half-chances. At the back Salisu looked a proper defender, winning most of his duels and further forward the whole team combined to slow Chelsea’s forward progress. Most improved player though was Djenepo who tackled, made interceptions and tracked back to help Bednarek at right back. I often find myself shouting at the TV with his errors but his efforts against Chelsea were a major factor in the rot being stopped. I’m making Moussa Djenepo my Man of the Match.