Beattie's midriff turns tide for Mourinho

Chelsea 2 - Southampton 1
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Any port in a storm, but Southampton, holed below the waterline by their self-inflicted stupidity with their management fiasco, surely would not have wanted to leave the south coast only to find themselves at Chelsea.

Any port in a storm, but Southampton, holed below the waterline by their self-inflicted stupidity with their management fiasco, surely would not have wanted to leave the south coast only to find themselves at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho's side were too determined, too dogged. It was an ocean liner steaming over a tug-boat. And even if Chelsea had the power and not the panache patented by Arsenal, they also have a perfect 12 points in the Premiership. It is their best ever start in the top flight. Full steam ahead.

Mourinho himself picked up on the nautical metaphors, claiming in his cussed programme notes that the supporters should "be in the boat" with the team in the face of the negative publicity he perceives they have received. He may be a man of many attributes, but a thick skin is not among them. Yet the same can be said of other great managers. Mourinho has adopted another of Sir Alex Ferguson's habits - by not turning up for the post-match press conference. Again he sent his assistant Steve Clarke. This time he apparently had a plane to catch.

As for Southampton, their new head coach Steve Wigley, replacing Paul Sturrock, has started with two 2-1 defeats, although this one was more flattering than it should have been. He too looked like he wanted to be elsewhere and so did several of his players. Indeed, last season Southampton lost 4-0 here but provided more of a robust challenge.

Despite their spectacular early goal yesterday they never looked like threatening Chelsea and were holding on from the very first minute. "We could have done with scoring in the 89th minute not the first," said Wigley ruefully. Clarke concurred, revealing the easy assurance behind Chelsea. "When they score in the first minute you have 89 minutes to get back into it," he said.

For all Mourinho's obvious tactical nous - and ability to organise - Chelsea's three clean sheets going into this match were simply an extension of last season's form when they did not concede a goal in 32 of their games. Unfortunately, any hope of a fourth consecutive shut-out was abruptly ended after just 12 seconds. A loose pass by Joe Cole fell straight to James Beattie. Cole skipped in the air in panic as he realised his error, while Beattie strode towards goal and looped the ball with the outside of his right boot, from almost 30 yards, over the head of a stranded Petr Cech. It was a superb finish and although it was not the fastest goal ever scored in the Premiership (that record is held, at nine seconds, by Tottenham's Ledley King), it was one of the more spectacular.

With the transfer deadline looming, it will have enhanced Beattie's value - which Wigley stated was way above the £6m Everton have now offered. "I'm pretty sure he'll stay," Wigley said, although he sounded less than convincing.

Chelsea were stung into action. Behind, this was the first time they had been forced to attack since Mourinho took over. Three times Didier Drogba took up good positions, three times he wasted them, while a header by his strike partner Eidur Gudjohnsen sailed over from Frank Lampard's deft cross. The Icelander was one of three changes from the dissection of Crystal Palace, although Mourinho did most of his tinkering in defence with the impressive Ricardo Carvalho again displacing William Gallas. The contest between the two, as to who will partner John Terry, is proving intriguing.

Cole retained his place, which is evolving into a role behind the main strikers, pushed to the left slightly. He revelled against Palace but his early mistake bothered him here, although he subsequently recovered well and was unfortunate when he met a cross from Wayne Bridge's surging run only to stumble and, seconds later, saw his shot blocked from Drogba's pull back. Cole's trickery then won a free-kick which was curled in cleverly by Lampard only to graze the studs of the outstretched Drogba. Eventually the dam burst. A Lampard corner was flicked on by Gudjohnsen and the ball struck Beattie in the midriff. As it spun goalwards, Graeme Le Saux tried to hack it away only for it to go in off the crossbar. Own goal by Beattie.

From another corner, Tiago Mendes' header was forced off the line by Anders Svensson. The pressure was relentless and from yet another corner the ball struck Claus Lundekvam's outstretched arm. After the misguided protests, which Wigley erroneously claimed were justified, Lampard slipped as he struck the penalty but it only served to distract Antti Niemi and the ball flew into the net.

Niemi was almost wrong-footed again after the break when Paulo Ferreira's wayward shot was diverted by Gudjohnsen. But the ball ran narrowly past the post. As the pressure grew, Rory Delap misplaced his header and Niemi had to tip over before Mourinho refreshed his attack with Damien Duff and Mateja Kezman. Still, Southampton were just one goal behind. However, the nearest they came was a Le Saux cross which dropped behind Beattie, while at the other end Lampard twisted to head a Kezman centre only for Niemi to save. The goalkeeper then palmed away a Kezman shot.

It made for a curiously flat finish (after the fury of the first half) and may have caused Mourinho mild concern, thoughprobably not much. Southampton could not help themselves, which just about sums up a miserable week that could be a precursor to a miserable season.

Comments