Chelsea 2-2 Saints
Accessing Stamford Bridge is like getting through an El Al airways check-in, but once inside, Saints fans were surprised at the team Nigel sent out to face Chelsea: Davis and Do Prado in for Ramirez and Lambert, with Rodriguez played as a lone striker.
It didn’t work badly, with an admirable work ethic allowing little space for the Blues’ superstars – but they have quality enough not to be denied, especially with Ba keeping Torres on the bench. Ba indeed opened the scoring with a striker’s finish when the ball fell for him in a crowded penalty area, and then Saints went further behind to a goal in the closing stages of the half, having let one in at a similar time in the F.A. Cup meeting: this time Hazard found the net after Ramires had shot against the bar.
No team changes at half time, but surely no-one, even in the visitors’ dressing room, could have foreseen what would ensue in the second period? There was a hint of a more adventurous role for new skipper Schneiderlin and then Lambert eventually appeared – but for Rodriguez, as we continued with one forward.
Three minutes later he had the ball in the net with a fine header following equally good work by Clyne to supply the cross. Why Rodriguez had been preferred could be seen by the time Luiz now had in a sweeper role, but Saints had more tricks up their sleeves. Firstly, Chaplow got a surprise outing, on for Davis, and then Ramirez was introduced, and again we had immediate success – the sub setting up Shaw for a cross that was eventually smashed into the net by a 20 yard volley from Puncheon.
There were still 15 minutes to play, plus four more for added time, and inevitably a few scary moments to contend with. That said, though, Saints protected Boruc pretty well, and some hefty clearances were just what was needed in the circumstances.
A great result that the team can all be proud of, and maybe it’s a good job they now have an extra couple of days to recover after so much hard work.
LSSC Man of the Match: Nathaniel Clyne who had a storming game.