By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 3 v Southampton 1
Timo Werner shrugged off the disappointment of seeing a bullet header of a goal chalked off by VAR to restore the lead for Chelsea in a 3-1 victory over Southampton at Stamford Bridge that puts the west Londoners top of the league – for now
VAR was central to the result of the game as it chalked off a goal and sent off a Saints player.
The Blues had failed to score in their past two games – both 1-0 defeats, so it was imperative they got off to a quick start against a side who they have struggled to put away in recent seasons.
That they did was all down to defender Trevoh Chalobah who latched onto a Ruben Loftus-Cheek corner to head home past Alex McCarthy on nine minutes.
Theo Walcott had a great chance to level on 34 minute but his glancing header from close range zipped past Mendy’s goal.
Timo Werner notched number two five minutes from the break or so they thought.
With the Blues pushing forward, the Saints forced the ball out to the left byline.
Hudson-Odoi latched onto it, and after taking one touch, clipped the perfect ball across to the far post where the German out jumped his challenger and powered home.
But VAR decided that there was a possible foul very early in the move when Cesar Azpilicueta and Kyle Walker-Peters went for the same ball.
The final decision went to referee Martin Atkinson who was summoned to the pitch-side monitor.
He saw Azpilicueta apparently tap Walker-Peters in the ankle and so cancelled the goal.
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel wasn’t happy with the decision and made his feelings clear on the sidelines. He got a yellow card from Atkinson for his efforts.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced Walcott with Ibrahimovic Diallo at half-time – Tuchel kept the starting 11.
The first effort of the restart fell to Werner, but his edge of the Saints’ area right-footer wasn’t strong enough to trouble Alex McCarthy.
The Blues gave away a needless penalty on 59 minutes when Chilwell fouled ex-Blues youth team player Valentino Livramento – James Ward-Prowse made not mistake from the spot, sending Mendy the wrong way to level the scores.
Tuchel decided that they needed to get a greater grip on the game, that was slowly slipping away from them – he replaced relatively ineffectual Hudson-Odoi with Mason Mount.
Romelu Lukaku got in the way of a Chilwell shot on 65 minutes when the goal-bound effort looked a certain goal – it looked like it was going to be a irritating frustrating end to the game for the Blues.
McCarthy then thwarted Werner on 72 minutes when he parried away a shot from the striker as he cut through the Saints rearguard.
Tuchel then took off Mateo Kovacic and on came Jorginho in an attempt to add a bit of intensity to the performance.
The Brazil-born Italian was on the pitch mere minutes when he was hauled down with a late, behind the body tackle by Ward-Prowse. Atkinson yellow-carded the midfielder but again VAR intervened telling Atkinson to check the monitor for a possible red card decision. The referee duly changed his mind and branded a red card to the goal-scorer on 76 minutes.
An increasingly frustrated-looking Tuchel then tried another personal change to crack the 10-man Saints – bringing on Ross Barkley for Loftus-Cheek with eight minutes left on the clock.
And it worked.
A first-time half-volley by Azpilicueta on the byline was met by Werner, and he confidently tucked home from six yards to put the Blues 2-1 in front and potentially a place at the top of the Premier League.
Seconds from the end and the Blues notched up number three. The woodwork was rattled twice before the ball fell to Chilwell who produced a wonderful angled left-footer which, on first inspection, McCarthy seemed to have plucked from the goal-line. But seconds later Atkinson heard the bleep on his watch which was activated by goal-line technology which proclaimed the ball had crossed the line and was a goal.
That was the goal that finally put the plucky Saints to bed and the Blue to the top of the league.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Chilwell, Silva, Rudiger, Kovacic , Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta.
Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Christensen, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Mount, Ziyech, Havertz
Southampton, McCarthy, Walker, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Adam Armstrong, Red<one, Livramento, Salisu, Tella, Walcott, Bednarek
Subs, Forster, Vajnovic, Long, Adam’s, Perrault, Stuart Armstrong, Djenepo, Elyounoussi, Diallo
Referee: Martin Atkinson
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