LONDON: Chelsea remain on target, in theory at least, for a historic quadruple in Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. But their failure to turn dominant possession into goals in a 1-1 draw at Southampton has left them vulnerable.
Six points clear at the top of the table at one stage, Jose Mourinho’s men remain only three ahead of the champions after failing even to capitalise on their numerical superiority in the closing minutes after the expulsion of Saints’ France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
Mourinho was angry at the decision by referee Anthony Taylor to award a penalty after Cesc Fabregas was tripped in the second half by Matt Targett; Fabregas was booked for diving.
Chelsea’s manager, already angry over criticism of his players for diving, said: “In other countries this is front-page news because it’s an absolute scandal.
“Out of nothing [West Ham manager] Sam Allardyce starts speaking about Chelsea players diving, then another coach and another coach. The referee changes a penalty for a yellow card.
“[The] same happened with Diego Costa in the game against Burnley. That I can’t understand. The reality is there are penalties and penalties – this one was a huge one. Match after match coaches are telling Chelsea players are diving. I will go to the referee and wish him a good year and tell him he will be ashamed.”
Chelsea go to Tottenham on New Year’s Day [Thursday] while City are home to Sunderland. That afternoon could see the top two change places and then Mourinho would suffer even greater regrets about the chances wasted at St Mary’s.
He might even then join the chorus of other managers – Louis Van Gaal and Sunderland’s Gus Poyet – in complaining about the traditional fixture pressures at this time of year. But Ronald Koeman’s Southampton deserve enormous credit for their heroic resistance.
Chelsea, against both Stoke on Monday and then against West Ham on Boxing Day, had built victories on the foundation of opening goals from John Terry.
Out of position
This time, however, in his 646th game for Chelsea, he was caught badly out of position in the 15th minute when Dusan Tadic sent in Sadio Mane and the Senegal striker opened the scoring with a delicate touch past the newly-crowned Belgian Sportsman of the Year.
Southampton had earned that goal after a first-class, high-speed opening segment of play. But after that Chelsea took over and Eden Hazard wriggled his way into space to equalise just before half-time.
Where Hazard had been a success, Andre Schurrle struggled to find space on the right wing and was replaced at half-time by Willian. Chelsea were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty for a trip on Cesc Fabregas but they created too few clearcut openings – even after John Obi Mikel gave way to Didier Drogba.