Chelsea take first place after spectacular win over Southampton
Timo Werner propelled Chelsea to the top of the Premier League as the German’s late goal inspired a controversial 3-1 win over 10-man Southampton on Saturday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side ended a frustrating week on a high note thanks to Werner’s contribution to a dramatic final at Stamford Bridge.
After successive 1-0 defeats against Manchester City and Juventus, the Blues risked another disappointing result just minutes from the end in soggy west London.
Trevoh Chalobah’s first game for Chelsea was canceled by a James Ward-Prowse penalty in the second half.
But Ward-Prowse was sent off for a nasty lunge on Jorginho and Chelsea took full advantage as Werner regained his lead six minutes from time before Ben Chilwell finished the points.
Chelsea are two points ahead of second-placed Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side able to regain pole position if they beat champions Manchester City on Sunday.
Failure to defeat a Southampton side still chasing their first league win this season would have raised serious questions about the European champions.
So it was a huge relief for Tuchel to get back on track ahead of the international break as Chelsea left one of their rare failures of German rule behind.
“After two losses we had to be careful not to start to be too sad or too worried,” Tuchel said.
“It was important to have a better performance than the last two games, that we sharpened our mindset so as not to be afraid of losing.
“It was nice to play like we did and get a deserved win.”
Frustrated by what he called a “strange spectacle” against Juventus on Wednesday and an equally lackluster loss to City last weekend, Tuchel made five changes in an attempt to shake up his “tired” squad.
For a man who barely went wrong since taking office in January, Tuchel has shown he hasn’t lost his Midas touch as three of the players he brought into the squad combined for the first game of the ninth minute.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek dominated the Southampton defense to send Chilwell’s corner to the far post, where Chalobah dived to come in from close range.
Werner believed he doubled Chelsea’s lead just before half-time when he passed two defenders to head from Callum Hudson-Odoi cross.
But, with both teams back in position for kick-off, a late intervention from VAR convinced referee Martin Atkinson to state that Cesar Azpilicueta had cut off Kyle Walker-Peters’ heel much earlier in the preparation for the goal.
It was a questionable decision and Tuchel was glowing with rage, waving his arms in protest as he briefly walked the pitch – a foray that earned him a reservation as boos cascaded from the stands.
“I was very angry because I could never believe this could happen in the Premier League. It was a 50-50 which wasn’t even closely tied to the goal,” Tuchel said.
“I understood before the season that we didn’t want light faults, that we wanted a contact game.
Shaken by this controversial moment, Chelsea lost their grip and Southampton equalized in the 61st minute.
Teenage right-back Tino Livramento, who left Chelsea late in the season, carried out an incisive raid that forced a panicking foul from Chilwell into the penalty area.
Atkinson pointed the finger and Ward-Prowse stepped in to send Edouard Mendy the wrong way with the penalty.
But Ward-Prowse couldn’t complain when Atkinson sent him off for a bad foul that left Jorginho writhing in pain with 14 minutes left.
It marked the turning point and Chelsea took the lead in the 84th minute.
Ross Barkley sent a nice pass to Azpilicueta and his mid-volley cross was perfect for Werner to break through at close range.
Five minutes later, Lukaku and Azpilicueta hit the post in quick succession before Chilwell led the rebound.