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

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it