Football: Davies' strike is decisive as Saints defy Chelsea

Southampton 1 Chelsea 0
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The Independent Online
Chelsea failed to take advantage of Manchester United's slip at Coventry when they, too, suffered an unexpected defeat last night. Facing a Southampton team they had twice defeated at Stamford Bridge they were hustled out of their stylish stride and deservedly lost to Kevin Davies' 16th-minute goal.

While Southampton equalled their highest position of the season in climbing to 13th Chelsea remain third, seven points behind Manchester United and a distant 9-1 at the bookmakers.

Last night's game again raised doubts about their ability to both produce their flowing football under pressure and the depth of their reserves. They may have a formidable range of forwards but, in the absence of the suspended Dennis Wise, they lacked the necessary devil in midfield. At the back, the reliance on Frank Sinclair is mystifying.

"I did not recognise the team. They way they played makes me angry," Ruud Gullit said. "We played better football in the second half but the damage was already done. We had to win this game."

But credit to Southampton, especially as their talisman, Matt Le Tissier, was anonymous. They relied instead on the precocity of Davies, the strength of Ken Monkou, and, most of all, the running and aggression of Carlton Palmer.

It was Palmer who took up Kevin Richardson's ball down the right flank and cut in before picking out Davies for the goal. It was Palmer who broke up Chelsea attacks and started Southampton ones. But it was also Palmer who was standing next to Graeme Le Saux when, after 24 minutes, the defender crumpled to the ground. Referee Martin Bodenham - who had earlier booked Palmer - consulted with his linesman but neither appeared to see anything, not entirely surprising since the ball was 30 yards away.

David Jones, the Southampton manager, said: "He is a winner and he upsets people but he's been brilliant since he came here. He gets back, gets forward, tracks people.''

This attitude ran through the home team and Chelsea were slow to adapt to it creating just two decent first-half chances. A neat corner routine ended with Mark Hughes having a shot chested off the line by Matthew Oakley, then the Welshman and Roberto Di Matteo were a foot away from touching in Gianfranco Zola's low cross. For Southampton Davies, set free by Oakley, steered his shot wide then Oakley shot over after a one-two with Davies.

Chelsea dominated possession in the second half but the final ball was lacking. Paul Hughes headed wide and Le Saux tested Paul Jones, but the visitors left gaps and Davies and David Hirst could have settled the match.

In the closing minutes, Tore Andre Flo brought a fine save from Jones then headed over from Gianfranco Zola's free-kick while Sinclair blazed over from close in. Even Gianluca Vialli, a last-minute addition, was unable to force an equaliser. Once again, Chelsea had been found wanting away from home.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Lundekvam, Monkou, Benali; Oakley, Richardson, Palmer, Le Tissier (Williams, 80); Hirst (Ostenstad, 66), Davies. Substitutes not used: Slater, Hughes, Moss (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Sinclair, Duberry, Clarke, Granville (Nicholls, 64); Petrescu (Flo, 59), Di Matteo, P Hughes (Vialli, 90), Le Saux; Zola, M Hughes. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Myers.

Referee: M Bodenham (W Sussex).