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By Paul Lagan, at Stamford Bridge
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Premier League: Chelsea 2 Swansea 2
Chelsea threw away a two-goal lead at home and the booing from the Chelsea crowd at the end of the game said it all.
The Blues were 2-0 up and cruising thanks to first-half strikes from Demba Ba and Eden Hazard, the Blues, who have lost their last two matches at Stamford Bridge evaporated in the second half as they conceded two goals.
It is only the third time in 90 games that Chelsea have blown that sort of winning position.
Substitute Rickie Lambert started the recovery for the South-coast side before Jason Puncheon’s blasted the equaliser.
Much of the opening exchanges one could expect before a ball is kicked in frozen anger - Chelsea quick on the counter-attack, Southampton packing their final third.
The best of the exchanges came on the 13th minutes when quality one-two work on the left between Eden Hazard and Demba Ba saw ball fed to the edge of the Southampton area to Frank Lampard. he midfielder squared it again to the in-running Cesar Azpilicueta, who processed to smash the ball high and wide over Artur Boruc’s crossbar.
Minute 16 came and went in now customary manner with cheers and applause for the sacked Roberto Di Matteo.
Unlike in their previous two home games, where the Blues failed to capitalise on superior possession, it finally bore fruit on 23 minutes.
A Lampard-inspired move started on the left of the visitors’ penalty area. The out-of-contract midfielder zipped past a couple of defenders before cutting back to Azpilicueta. The Spain right-back arrowed in a crisp right-footer which Oscar somehow moved the ball on straight into the path of Ba who clinically semi-bycliced a right footer of his own, low and wide of Boruc’s fruitless dive.
Southampton, on a rare foray up front, with eight minutes of the half remaining, lumped a long-ball from ex-Chelsea youth teamer Jack Cork forward.
Jay Rodriguez trapped the high effort perfectly, brought it down and laid it off, in one quick movement to Steven Davis. The midfielder however panicked when receiving the ball on the edge of the Chelsea area, and screwed a drive wide of Petr Cech’s right post.
Lampard could have sealed the three points on 43 minutes but he slightly panicked himself, and drove a daisy-cutter equally wide of Boruc’s goal from after good set- up play by Oscar.
But the Blues were not to be denied and the second duly came just before the whistle.
Started by Hazard, the ball was moved quickly forward, Lampard was involved again before the ball fell invitingly to Ramires. The Brazil midfielder rattled the crossbar with a rasper, before the ball bounced back to Hazard who powerfully rammed a left footer into the back the net from just inside the Southampton penalty area.
Neither side made any changes at half-time, although Saints boss Nigel Atkins did decide to replace striker for striker nine minutes in- Rickie Lambert replacing Rodriguez.
Within two minutes the substitution worked a treat.
Right-back Nathaniel Clyne was more determined in a challenge with Ashley Cole. Bowver just before Clyne’s prefect right byline cross, Lambert pushed his marker Gary Cahill away, thus giving him vital space in the six-yard box to attack the cross with impunity.
This he did and the ball arrowed off the striker’s forehead into back of Cech’s net.
Ba produced an acrobatic volley from a long pass from Juan Mata on 67 minutes as they tried to wrestle back the initiative given needlessly away, but his fine effort went over the crossbar.
Lampard, attempting to chase down the eight goals needed to become equal top goal-scorer for the Blues thought he had nailed one on 72 minutes. But a trademark 20-yard free kick beat the assembled wall but inched wide of goal.
Almost straight away and the sleepy Blues had conceded a second.
Star in the making left-back Luke Shaw, virtually raced the full length of the pitch before sending in a cross to the edge of the Chelsea area.
Jason Puncheon, until then virtually a bystander, teed the ball up with his right foot before he let fly with his left and the ball sizzled past hapless Cech’s outstretched right hand and into the back of the net.
Chelsea’s interim boss Rafael Benitez, decided he had enough and took off Lampard and brought on Fernando Torres, changing the shape of the side to 4:4:2 to accommodate the two strikers.
Torres, could have made himself a hero with five minutes to go, but instead his limp right-footed effort went into the side-netting.
With Southampton getting tired, their spirit was still in evidence and they held on against a final onslaught to heap more pressure on an already unpopular Benitez.
Teams: Chelsea - Cech, Cole, Luiz, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ba
Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Torres, Ferreira, Marin, Terry, Bertrand.
Southampton - Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, Hooiveld, Davis, Rodriguez, Cork, Do Prado, Shaw, Puncheon
Subs: Davis, Lambert, Ramirez, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Seaborne, Chaplow.
Referee: Michael Oliver