I have begun to wonder over the last few weeks how different the season would be if Chelsea played like we have since the turn of the year for the whole season. We haven’t lost in the league yet in 2016, and we have begun to hit the sort of form that you would normally associate with a team challenging for the Champions League places, if not the title. The late winner against Southampton was the sort of goal that a team scores when they need to grind out a result against a dogged defensive side.
The team that Hiddink put out was probably the strongest that we could have had, other than perhaps Matic for Mikel, simply because he offers more with the ball at his feet. It was unfortunate for Pedro who picked up an injury early on because he has been playing so well recently, and with it being a hamstring injury, he could be out for a little while yet. If it’s his pain, it’s Oscar’s gain. The Brazilian has also been playing well recently, and can count himself unfortunate at being left out of the side for this game.
We were quite unimpressive in the first half, and we did really deserve to go behind towards the end of the first 45 minutes through Shane Long. It was a shocking error from Baba Rahman, who has actually been playing his best football in a Chelsea first in the past few weeks. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him that he had a howler today though, and to take him off at half-time was harsh, even if it did eventually help us in the second half.
Now, I seem to spend a lot of time talking about Diego Costa in these articles, and it looks like I have to again now. I’m not saying he’s entirely free of blame, but when defenders are getting away with cheap shots at a player simply because it’s Diego Costa, we’ve gone too far. Why he’s getting a yellow card I don’t know as it’s barely even a foul, and the referee has simply acted based purely on the reactions of the Southampton players, which is ridiculous.
It was slightly ironic therefore when Costa put in a good run down the left, and picked out Cesc Fabregas, who was very lucky to find the net. It was actually a very good pass by the Spaniard, as Eden Hazard really should have got on the end of it to score himself, and I’m not sure why he didn’t try harder to do so. In the end it was a poor piece of goalkeeping from Fraser Forster, who had previously kept six consecutive clean sheets. Fabregas deserved the goal based on his second half performance, where he controlled the game.
Branislav Ivanovic seems to have a knack of popping up and scoring goals when we need him to. It was just a shame he couldn’t pop up and defend when we needed him to in the first half of this season. He scored the goal that put the Blues through against Napoli in the famous Champions League run in 2012, the winner in the Europa League final against Benfica in 2013, and the strike to wrap up a crucial 2-1 win over Aston Villa last year. This one probably doesn’t bring about the same significance, but it will certainly improve morale amongst the squad, and may help to bring about a run of form that includes the Champions League second leg against PSG. Whatever happens, it was a good header, and I think we deserved the three points.
There is a run of games coming up in the league that we could use to continue our unbeaten run ever further, and given the inconsistency of the sides around us, we can still make the top six or seven. On Tuesday it’s Norwich away, a game we really should be winning.