Chelsea 3 Southampton 1 match report: Demba Ba transforms Chelsea after Jose Mourinho’s magic touch

Victory lifts Blues to within four points of Premier League leaders Arsenal

This did not, at half-time, look like a vintage performance from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

They were 1-0 down, at home, to Southampton, having conceded in just 13 seconds, after which they were very well-matched by the excellent Saints.

What followed, though, was the reminder that many people had been waiting for; that Mourinho is different, that he is able to turn football matches almost through a simple flick of a switch. At the interval he withdrew Michael Essien and brought on Demba Ba, abandoning his 4-2-3-1 for a 4-4-2.

Chelsea were transformed, playing with far more presence, power and purpose, looking – in a way they have not always done this season – like a true Mourinho side. They equalised and took the lead with two headers from corners within seven second-half minutes before Ba, the man who had changed it all, scored the last goal in the last minute.

It was entirely deserved given Chelsea’s dramatic improvement. In the first half they were pressurised hard by Southampton. In the second half Mourinho reversed the roles.

“Our 4-4-2 gave Southampton a different game, a game they did not expect,” Mourinho explained afterwards. “We were losing, we were not producing enough, and my feeling was not to wait but to give the opponent a new problem immediately.”

In the first half Saints were ferocious without the ball but very methodical with it. In the second half they barely got a touch. “[Southampton] like to play the ball from the back,” Mourinho said, “and playing with two strikers meant that they couldn’t play from behind. They started building long, and that allowed my team to play more in the opponents’ half and to create chances.”

Chelsea’s high squeeze was relentless, as Ba and Torres swarmed over Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren, building up pressure until the inevitable goals came. The first was seven minutes after the re-start. Juan Mata swung in a corner from the left, Branislav Ivanovic headed at goal, Ba turned it onto the post and Gary Cahill rearranged his body to nod the rebound past Artur Boruc, who injured himself in the attempted save. From that point, even at 1-1, only one team was going to win and no-one was surprised when Chelsea went ahead from another set-piece.

Seven minutes after the equaliser, another Mata corner was briefly cleared but Frank Lampard – on for the injured Oscar – passed the ball back to Mata, free on the left. He crossed again and John Terry jumped highest at the near post, glancing the ball over Paulo Gazzaniga and into the far top corner.

Mauricio Pochettino bemoaned two “soft goals” but his team were unlikely to survive Chelsea’s long storm. They had no real response. They could not get enough of the ball to create anything and when Pochettino mirrored Mourinho’s move to 4-4-2, introducing Rickie Lambert for Morgan Schneiderlin, it was too late. Never in the second half did Chelsea slow down, and Ba and Torres both could have added a third before Ba diverted Ramires’s clever pass in at the near post in the last minute.

It was not the likeliest outcome given how the game started. It took Southampton just 13 seconds to take the lead. Essien, making his first league start for Chelsea since May 2012, lifted a back-pass perfectly between Cahill and Petr Cech, allowing Jay Rodriguez to steal in and put Saints ahead.

With their ambitious pressing and high intensity, Southampton showed Chelsea no deference whatsoever. Having won at Liverpool and drawn at Manchester United this season, Southampton are clearly not fazed by fame. After scoring, they looked worthy of the lead, pressing Chelsea wherever possible but never quite making a good enough chance for a second goal.

Boruc had a few saves to make – from Oscar from distance, from Mata from close-range and then impressively from a Torres header – and the first-half performance was not the worst of Chelsea’s season. But it was their improvement after the break won them the game – closing the gap on Arsenal to four points – and making them look like serious contenders.

“The boys have to cope with the responsibility of being there,” Mourinho said, knowing that this young team does not have quite the same nous and experience of his first Chelsea side, and that a few of them will almost have to be nursed through their first real Premier League title race by the master title-winner himself.

“Some of the players, the ones that are not complete in my mentality or philosophy, are adapting progressively, feeling the responsibility that Chelsea cannot in December be completely out of the title race. They must feel the responsibility of playing for Chelsea, and that was a sign of maturity.”

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Cech 5; Ivanovic 6, Cahill 6, Terry 6, Azpilicueta 5; Ramires 6, Essien 4 (Ba, 45, 7); Mata 7, Oscar 5 (Lampard, 41, 5), Hazard 6; Torres 7 (Mikel, 81)

Southampton (4-2-3-1) Boruc 7 (Gazzaniga, 58, 5); Clyne 5, Fonte 6, Lovren 6, Shaw 6; Wanyama 5, Schneiderlin 7 (Lambert, 69, 5); Ward-Prowse 6 (Davis, 63, 5), Lallana 6, Rodriguez 6; Osvaldo 5

Man of match: Torres

Match rating: 8

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions