London - Diego Costa has ended his seven-game drought but the Chelsea
striker's 18th Premier League goal of the season was not enough to
secure victory as the leaders were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton at
Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho's side were desperate to
bounce back from their midweek Champions League exit against Paris Saint
Germain and take advantage of Manchester City's surprise defeat against
Burnley on Saturday.
But Dusan Tadic's 19th penalty cancelled out
Costa's 11th minute opener and denied the Blues the chance to establish
an even more commanding lead over the chasing pack.
While a point
extended Chelsea's lead at the head of the table to six points, having
played a game less than second-placed City, it was a disappointing end
to a frustrating week for Mourinho and company.
The draw also
frustrated Southampton who were unable to make bigger inroads in their
efforts to force their way back into contention for a top four finish.
had responded to the Champions League exit by rounding on his team's
critics - Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, the former Liverpool
players turned TV pundits, came in for particular attention for their
comments about the Chelsea players behaviour towards the referee - and
bullishly insisting his team would make up for that set-back by winning
The Chelsea manager's decision to retain 10 of the
starting line-up that failed to beat PSG, Willian came in for Ramires,
reinforced the view that Mourinho had faith in his players' resilience.
the opening moments of the game suggested the Portuguese's confidence
was not misplaced with his side capping a bright start with a
much-needed goal from Costa.
The move that led to Chelsea taking
the lead offered a reminder of the qualities they have shown for much of
the season with Eden Hazard exchanging passes with Costa outside the
Southampton area before working the ball out to Branislav Ivanovic on
Costa, meanwhile, spotted a gap in the visitors'
defences and darted into the area where he met Ivanovic's well-flighted
cross with a powerful header from just six yards out.
pain of Wednesday evening had been eased, but Southampton responded
immediately, confirming they had no intention of simply playing a
supporting role as Mourinho's team repaired their wounded morale.
Ronald Koeman's side had enjoyed a 12-day break since the victory over Crystal Palace that had revived their top-four challenge.
with the opportunity to take his players for a mid-season break, Koeman
broke with tradition, opting to head for the snow of Switzerland
instead of the more traditional warm weather training trip.
move appeared to have had the desired effect with Southampton looking
sharp and refreshed as they quickly recovered and were back on level
terms thanks to a contentious penalty decision.
Referee Mike Dean
decided the excellent Sadio Mane was brought down after the Southampton
forward found himself sandwiched between Nemanja Matic and Ivanovic.
Chelsea players were clearly unhappy at the decision but, having being
accused of surrounding referee Bjorn Kuipers and contributing to the
Dutchman's decision to dismiss Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Wednesday, the
reaction this time was muted.
There was another potential
flashpoint shortly afterwards when Ivanovic's appeals for a penalty were
dismissed, but the home side's main concern was how to stifle Koeman's
Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama were dominating the
midfield while Tadic and Mane repeatedly threatened Thibaut Courtois'
By contrast, Chelsea appeared ponderous and were fortunate to reach half-time on level terms.
second half brought an improvement from Mourinho's side with Costa
becoming more prominent, particularly when the forward diverted
Willian's shot against the upright.
The momentum of the game
continued to favour Chelsea and it took two excellent saves from Saints
keeper Fraser Forster to keep out a Hazard header and an Oscar shot
before John Terry blazed wide in a frantic finale.