Giroud lead Chelsea comeback

Giroud lead Chelsea comeback
From ESPN - April 14, 2018

SOUTHAMPTON, England -- Three points on Southampton 2-3 Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon:

1. Chelsea finally show some fight

At half time, as Chelsea stumbled in 1-0 down to struggling Southampton, it was tempting to wonder whether Antonio Conte would make it to the Wembley when his side meet Southampton again in the FA Cup semifinal later this month. One stirring fightback and two Olivier Giroud goals later, though, it was clear the fallen Premier League champions retain the ability to summon the steel of old.

Mark Hughes' men were rewarded in the first half for defending with discipline and attacking with purpose against a group of Chelsea players who appeared disinterested in their fortunes, led by a head coach in Conte whose touchline demeanour reinforcedGianluca Vialli's recent claim that Conte ca not wait to leave.

The home side's breakthrough came in the 21st minute, as Chelsea academy graduate Ryan Bertrand raced into the space vacated by Davide Zappacosta, left a toiling Cesar Azpilicueta in his wake and picked out an unmarked Dusan Tadic, who had the simplest of finishes for only his fourth Premier League goal of the season.

Chelsea's defensive lethargy was perfectly in keeping with the laboured, mechanical possession play that saw them fail to register a single shot on target in the first half. The only impression of any kind the visitors made prior to the break came in the form of Marcos Alonso's studs raking down Shane Long's calf; the Spaniard was lucky to avoid any sanction from referee Mike Dean.

Southampton had not scored twice at St Mary's since their last Premier League home win in November, but the generosity of Chelsea's defence knew no bounds. Jan Bednarek, making his first league start for the Saints, was left unmarked at the back post to meet James Ward-Prowse's inviting free-kick with a controlled low finish to double their lead.

Conte responded by immediately introducing Giroud and Pedro for Alvaro Morata and Zappacosta, and Chelsea finally stirred. The France international powered in a near-post header from Alonso's cross on 71 minutes, then laid the foundation for Eden Hazard to slam home the equaliser.

As a panicked Southampton reeled, Giroud pounced again to complete the fightback, chesting down Alonso's header and finding the bottom corner.

Chelsea's resilience has come too late to salvage a Premier League top-four place, but it might just be enough to get them to an FA Cup final -- and see Conte to the end of a roller-coaster season with more lows than highs.

2. Giroud everything Morata is not for Blues

There could be no better stage than St Mary's and no better opponents than Southampton to stake a claim for a starting spot at Wembley later this month, and Giroud needed only 17 minutes on the pitch to accomplish what Morata failed to even threaten in just over an hour.


Continue reading at ESPN »