Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho: My boys are not divers

Southampton 1 - Chelsea 1

By Jack Pitt Brooke

Jose Mourinho's mood may have marginally improved when he left his post-match press conference and learned that Manchester City had drawn at home with Burnley.

That surprise result from the Etihad Stadium - the equaliser came just as Mourinho was discussing Chelsea's non-penalty here - meant that the gap between City and Chelsea stayed at three points, rather than contracting to one, and that Chelsea's failure to win at Southampton was less immediately costly than it might have been.

Chelsea, kicking off an hour before City, had just stumbled to a 1-1 draw with an impressively resilient Southampton side. Mourinho's men had been poor in the first half and had gone behind, only for Eden Hazard, to drag them back with a brilliant equaliser just before the break.

For all of Chelsea's attacking pressure in the second half, though, they could not find a winner. Their best opportunity came when Matt Targett tripped Cesc Fabregas in the box, only for referee Anthony Taylor to book Fabregas for simulation.

This was the incident that sparked Mourinho's post-match fury, not just with the "scandal" of the unawarded penalty, but with what he called a "campaign" against his team, denying them penalties that they had earned, booking their players for being fouled and ignoring the transgressions of their rivals.

It was quite a performance from Mourinho afterwards but understandably so. This was the type of marginal misfortune that decides tight games. And this was the type of tight game that decides tight seasons. Chelsea were away from home, against a good team, back on the pitch just 48 hours after their last match. This was a real test of their resources and the evidence on the pitch was that they did not quite have enough. Or rather, they did not have enough to render the officiating irrelevant.

Throughout the first half, Chelsea had looked slower and sloppier than their brisk, inventive hosts. Mourinho had made changes from the side who brushed West Ham United aside on Boxing Day. He brought in Jon Obi Mikel, for midfield presence, and Andre Schürrle, for pace on the break.

It was a Chelsea team set up to counter-attack but Southampton's willingness to sit deep caught Chelsea slightly unawares. With Diego Costa not looking at his very sharpest - this is his first Christmas programme and it is naturally difficult - Chelsea were more reliant than ever on the incision of Hazard and Fabregas.

Southampton played the better football throughout the first half. Ronald Koeman had his first-choice front three, in Graziano Pelle, Saido Mané and Dusan Tadic.

Their early combinations should have been warning enough to Chelsea and, 17 minutes in, they took the lead. Pelle beat Gary Cahill to a long ball from the back, knocking it back to Tadic, who cushion-volleyed the ball over the top, finding Mané's run. Mané raced away from John Terry and his confident finish beat Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea had yet to start playing and it looked as if Southampton were the likelier side to score before the break. Tadic curled a free-kick over the bar, Targett had a shot blocked by Gary Cahill and Pelle stabbed a shot over from the edge of the box.

With the final attack of the first half, though, Chelsea pulled level. Fabregas clipped a perfect pass into the inside left channel and Hazard raced onto it.

Facing part-time right-back Maya Yoshida, Hazard darted inside, dummied rather than shooting, came back further inside beyond Toby Alderweireld and found the far bottom corner of the net.

Once Mourinho put Willian on for Schürrle at half-time, Chelsea had more attacking options and they started to force Southampton back into their penalty area.

Both Fonte and Alderweireld had to block shots from Willian before the tangle between Targett and Fabregas - a clear trip and a foul - that so incensed Mourinho.

There were still 35 minutes left after that, though, and even with Didier Drogba and Loïc Rémy thrown on, Chelsea could not score the winner they thought that they deserved.

On another day Chelsea might have found a winner but they did not, and looked at the end like they missed the imagination of Oscar, who was ill.

Southampton gave everything, especially after Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off for a second yellow card, and clung on for an important point.

"One point against Chelsea is like maybe three against another team," smiled Koeman. "In some moments we were lucky, but if you don't have luck against these teams, it is impossible to get a result."

Belfast Telegraph


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