Ralph Hasenhuttl said he hoped Southampton’s draw against Chelsea was the start of his side returning to their normal selves after they ended a run of six successive Premier League defeats.
The hosts took the lead against the run of play in the first half when Nathan Redmond played a brilliant ball to send Takumi Minamino clear and the on-loan Liverpool striker showed great composure to slot beyond Edouard Mendy.
But the Saints gifted Chelsea an equaliser eight minutes after the break when Danny Ings brought down Mason Mount inside the box and the Blues midfielder stepped up to send Alex McCarthy the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Chelsea were unable to kick on after that and instead it was Southampton who went closest to grabbing a winner as Jannik Vestergaard hit the crossbar with a header before Ings put the loose ball into the side-netting.
However, Saints manager Hasenhuttl was satisfied with a positive result in light of their recent torrid run.
“A draw feels like a win,” he said. “It’s a step towards us returning to our normal form.”
“We are believing in what we are doing. The Premier League is tough. For us, it is good that we take a point from such a strong side.”
The point left Chelsea in fourth place on 43 points with Southampton 13th on 30 points.
Saints end losing run
Southampton were third on 16 December but a terrible run of losses going into this game had seen then slide down into the bottom half of the table. While they may not have been looking nervously over their shoulder, arresting their alarming slide down the table had become a priority.
For large periods against Chelsea they were like a plucky lower league side aiming to shock a Premier League opponent. They barely saw the ball for the majority of the first half and it was from their first touch inside the Blues’ area that they got the goal with a brilliantly composed finish by Minamino.
However, no side has dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League than Southampton and once again they were their own worst enemy as Ings gave away a penalty with Chelsea having rarely looked like creating anything from open play.
While it could have been an even better result, particularly with Vestergaard hitting the woodwork, the point is a positive against an in-form Chelsea. They will hope it provides a good base to try and build from before a tricky-looking run of four successive away games in the Premier League.
A good test for Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel enjoyed a near perfect start to his reign at Chelsea, winning four of his first five Premier League games and drawing the other one – a goalless stalemate with Wolves in his first match in charge.
The Blues had never been behind during that run, so Minamino’s goal – the first scored by an opposition player since Tuchel’s arrival – presented a new challenge for the German in his short time so far in England.
Even before the Southampton goal, Chelsea had struggled to break down their stubborn opponents and that continued after Mount equalised from the penalty spot.
The visitors’ attacking play became increasingly sloppy as frustration grew with their inability to find a way through the Southampton defence, exemplified by a poor Reece James finish when he lashed over at the far post.
Tuchel showed he is not afraid to make tough decisions when things are not working for his side. He replaced Callum Hudson-Odoi on 76 minutes despite the winger having only come on at half-time and after the game was critical of the player’s body language.
Failure to win meant Chelsea missed the opportunity to strengthen their position in the top four but Tuchel will have learned a lot about how his side fare when they come up against sides set up to stifle them.
“We not only had possession but good possession in the opponent half, in the last 20 metres we lacked quality and that is the truth,” said Tuchel.
“We lacked determination, aggressiveness and more one on one chances. We controlled 80 metres, all counter attacks and when you control the match like this and you need a penalty to score, you see the problem is clear.”
No penalty blues for Chelsea – the stats
- Mason Mount became the 25th different player to score a penalty for Chelsea in the Premier League, with the Blues having more penalty scorers than any other team in the competition’s history.
- Southampton ended a run of six successive Premier League defeats, the club’s worst losing run in their Football League history, since winning 1-0 against Liverpool on 4 January.
- Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is the 16th manager in Premier League history to avoid defeat in his first six games in the competition (W4 D2) and the first since Maurizio Sarri in September 2018, also with the Blues.
- Southampton have lost 18 points from leading positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in three away league games (W2 D1) after losing four of the five before that (W1).
- Southampton conceded their fifth penalty goal of the league season; only in 1993-94 and 2016-17 (both six) did the Saints concede more goals from the spot in a Premier League campaign.
- Southampton’s Takumi Minamino became the first opposition player to score against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea in all competitions, ending a run of 572 minutes without such a goal for the German manager (Antonio Rüdiger scored an own-goal in game v Sheffield United).
- Southampton scored with their first shot of the game via Takumi Minamino’s opener on 33 minutes, with that strike also Saints’ first touch in Chelsea’s box.
- Southampton’s Nathan Redmond registered his first assist in his last 16 Premier League appearances, since July 2020 against Bournemouth.
Southampton travel to Leeds on Tuesday, 23 February (18:00 GMT) in the Premier League while Chelsea are in Champions League action on the same night as they play Atletico Madrid in Bucharest (20:00)