Southampton suffered another spanking to a top 6 side, as Chelsea glided their way to an easy victory on the South coast, via goals from top scorer Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata and Ross Barkley, who netted his first for the Londoners.
Barkley, who was recalled to the England squad in midweek, was handed his third start of the season. He was on hand to set up Eden Hazard for the opener inside the opening half an hour, before scoring himself from close range. Alvaro Morata made it 3-0 in the dying embers of the game, as Southampton struggled to make the most of some clear openings when they were given the licence to roam into Chelsea’s final third , including a jaw-dropping miss from Danny Ings from three yards out.
The victory keeps Chelsea unbeaten and moves them to the joint-top of the Premier League, level on points with Liverpool and Manchester City, who themselves endured an anti-climatic 0-0 at Anfield to keep the heat on the battle at the top of the table.
The Saints, meanwhile, have now taken just 15 points from their last 20 league games, which is the lowest amount of any team in the Premier League.
They certainly started like a team with only one win in their last 14 home games, as Chelsea’s possession stats read 85 per cent after 20 minutes. The Blues were smothering the home side, pinning them back inside their own box for the majority of the opening exchanges, as Hazard and co. teased Southampton’s defence with slick passing and direct running; there was a feeling around the ground that a goal was imminent.
That goal nearly came for the hosts to the surprise of many. The Red ‘n’ Whites found a window of possession to get forward, and should have struck first when Ings fired over a sitter from inside the six-yard box after some great play down the left by Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond, who linked down the left before getting the cross in for the former Liverpool and Burnley striker, who slashed the ball horribly off-target.
Olivier Giroud had a strong penalty shout turned down after being caught late by Wesley Hoedt, but his side’s domination was rewarded as they went ahead minutes later. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was robbed in possession by Barkley, who played through a perfect ball for Hazard in-between the out-rushing Welsey Hoedt and Mario Lemina, smashing his shot past Alex McCarthy into the bottom right for his 7th goal of the season.
Southampton switched to a 4-4-2 after the break and strived for the initiative to find an equaliser, but Bertrand volleyed his chance over at the back post when well positioned.
Chelsea, who were always a threat with Hazard looking dangerous, doubled their advantage on 57 minutes. Willian sent in a floating free-kick, which was acrobatically hooked across goal by Giroud for Barkley, who was quickest to the loose ball as he ghosted past the Southampton defenders to tap in from close range, putting the cherry on the cake of a fantastic performance and week for the Englishman.
Nathan Redmond was unlucky not to pull one back for the Saints, as he could only watch on in agony as he crashed a long-range effort onto the bar thanks to a magnificent save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, which lead to Chelsea bagging the third goal to kill of the game. Morata, who had missed a glorious chance minutes earlier when planting his side footed shot straight into McCarthy, skilfully finished off a flowing Hazard-instigated move in injury time to see off the job.
It was another day of misery for Mark Hughes and his men, who sit in 16th position on the same measly 5 points since their draw to Brighton. Lacking inspiration and die-hard determination to retrieve a result of any sort, the South coast side will welcome the international break with open arms, hoping that the interval can spark a change in results that are direly needed for the team and the morale around the club, as no one in association will want to see the Saints slip into the dreaded relegation zone.
Chelsea: Kepa (7), Alonso (7), Azpilicueta (7), Luiz (8), Rudiger (7), Kante (6), Jorginho (7), Barkley (8), Willian (7), Hazard (8), Giroud (7)
Hard pushed by Hazard for the outstanding player award, Barkley became the first Englishman to score and assist in a Premier League game for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in December 2013. Producing those game-changing moments has always been an area of criticism aimed at Barkley, but he was cool when it mattered. Plus, his contribution in midfield with the ball was impressive, boasting a successful pass rate of 94 per cent; Gareth Southgate will have been beaming.