Blues cruise to Saints win
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: 02/04/05 7:10pm
Chelsea survived a minor blip as they continued to cruise to the Premiership title with a comfortable 3-1 win over Southampton.
Jose Mourinho's men opened the scoring with a lucky Frank Lampard free kick, before Eidur Gudjohnsen struck from close range to put the visitors in a seemingly unassailable position.
However Kevin Phillips pulled one back with a smart finish before Gudjohnsen rounded off a slick move to dispel any fears of a comeback and hand Chelsea yet another three points.
Whilst Redknapp's side put in a spirited display to suggest that they may be a good bet to avoid the drop, it seemed almost inevitable that the Champions elect would secure the win.
Chelsea experienced a tentative opening period, as they kept the ball patiently against a well-organised Southampton side.
Graeme Le Saux looked fired up as he faced his former employers, as one of the first casualties of the Roman Abramovich era was determined to provide a threat down the left wing.
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A cagey opening 20 minutes was ended as Lampard scored his 12th of the season thanks to a hugely fortuitous deflection, as Chelsea took a lead that their efforts up to that point did not really merit.
The England midfielder lined up a free kick from 30 yards, won after Andreas Jakobsson fouled Mateja Kezman, and his strong shot diverted off Rory Delap's shoulder past a hapless Antti Niemi in the Southampton goal.
The Saints' main threat in the first half was the in-form Peter Crouch, who had claimed 13 goals in 18 games before the tie kicked-off, and the lofty hit-man found himself one-on-one with Petr Cech before the half hour, although play was called back for a dubious Nigel Quashie foul on William Gallas.
Saints keeper Niemi showed glimpses of the form that have made him one of The Premiership's most prized keepers as he was called into action twice in the space of a few minutes
The Finnish custodian first pulled off a spectacular aerial karate kick to prevent an over-heavy back-pass from Claus Lundekvam finding its way into the net.
He then dived well to the left to gather a Robert Huth shot, before Lundekvam went close at the other end when beating John Terry to a header.
In a half relatively bereft of chances, it took a moment of magic from Glen Johnson to double the London outfit's lead as he provided a superb assist.
The young stopper picked up the ball on the right wing before embarking on a marauding run that took him past Le Saux and Olivier Bernard and as he cut back to Gudjohnsen the Chelsea front-man had time to control and then dispatch past Niemi.
The Blues could have extended their lead even further after the break, as Duff pulled down a long pass well, turned Delap and shot low only to see his shot fail to trouble Niemi.
The home side struggled to gain a foothold back in the game as Chelsea were content to sit back, and found Delap's long throws to be their most productive outlet.
Crouch was inevitably the target and forced Cech into a save when he climbed above Huth to direct the ball towards goal.
Kezman was the subject of controversy as he could have been dismissed when it appeared as if he elbowed Jakobsson, but he escaped a second booking after the referee consulted his assistant.
Redknapp opted to bring on Phillips to bolster his attack in the search for an unlikely comeback, and the former Sunderland man went close as he forced Cech to tip over after latching onto a Crouch knock-back.
However, from the resultant corner, Phillips made the desired impact as he converted a fantastic reaction shot.
Gudjohnsen inexplicably let Paul Telfer go at the by-line, and his fierce cross was met first time by Phillips who slotted in to record only the 11th goal scored against Cech this season.
Chelsea also introduced an attacking change as Didier Drogba replaced Kezman, and the Ivory Coast international also began to impose himself on the game.
He nearly latched onto the end of a whipped in cross from Johnson only to be denied by a good interception from Jakobsson, before also going close when picking up a Tiago through-ball.
It was strike partner Gudjohnsen who claimed the crucial third however, as he started and finished a fantastic move that was indicative of the flair and incisive play that Chelsea have displayed all season.
The striker picked up a loose clearance from Jakobsson before ghosting through the defence to slot in Drogba's fine lay-off after a move encompassing Lampard and Jiri Jarosik.
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|3||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||8|
|1||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||4|
|13||Total Fouls Conceded||10|
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|20||West Ham United||0||0|