Conte slams first-half display but salutes Chelsea reaction

Conte slams first-half display but salutes Chelsea reaction

2-3, min. 78, Giroud. But rather than give a penalty and send the defender off, referee Mike Dean played on, allowing Long to get up, and in one quick movement turn and shoot.

Rudiger was nowhere to be seen in the Chelsea squad for their game at St Mary's with Southampton on Saturday.

Southampton remain 18th as they try to avoid slipping into the Championship for the first time since 2011-12.

Dusan Tadic and debutant Jan Bednarek put the hosts in command, but Giroud's first league goals for Chelsea either side of Eden Hazard's equaliser cut the gap on Liverpool and Tottenham in the fight for a top-four finish to seven points. In danger of relegation, Southampton came out fighting, out-muscled Chelsea and pressured with energy and commitment. A well worked team move saw Alvaro Morata with a good chance inside the box, but he could only lift his effort over the bar.

And as for the great controversy of the match, when Marcos Alonso raked his studs down Shane Long's calf in a unsafe challenge and the cry went up for a red card, Conte pleads ignorance. "For sure, in the first half I was very disappointed for the way we were playing".

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Eden Hazard was fouled to spark Chelsea's first score. This time, it was a sublime left-footed finish into the bottom corner after pinball in the Southampton penalty area - heartbreaking for Mark Hughes' very spirited side, who were very good value for their original two-goal lead.

Bednarek marked his Premier League debut in style when he half-volleyed expertly across the goal and into the far corner from Ward-Prowse's free-kick on the hour mark. It was however Olivier Giroud who came off the bench that flagged off the table turning push scoring in the 70th minute after enjoying an assist from Marcos Alonso.

But Giroud came on to score two goals while Hazard and added another. The Blues failed to register a shot on target in the 45. Southampton's heads had dropped, and they would drop even lower three minutes later as Chelsea completed their comeback in the 78th minute.

The former Chelsea left-back powered past Cesar Azpilicueta into the box and squared for Tadic to sidefoot home for his first league goal since December.

For the first ten minutes of the game, it looked as though it would be the Blues doing all the pressing but Southampton, who entered at odds as long of 7/1 with victor to triumph, rapidly grew into the match.

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