Abraham sets Chelsea on their way to win over Southampton

Frank Lampard’s side were impressive in victory which moves them into top five

Tammy Abraham scores Chelsea’s first as Maya Yoshida of Southampton attempts to clear the ball off the line. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Tammy Abraham scores Chelsea’s first as Maya Yoshida of Southampton attempts to clear the ball off the line. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

 

Southampton 1 Chelsea 3

That new five-year deal for Callum Hudson-Odoi is already looking like smart business for Chelsea. A player whose future seemed to lie elsewhere when Maurizio Sarri was in charge was the best player on the pitch after being handed his first league start of the season, running Southampton ragged with a display that demonstrated precisely why Bayern Munich wanted to buy him earlier this year.

Back from a serious achilles injury, Hudson-Odoi is playing with the determination of someone making up for lost time, someone desperate to show he is just as good as his fellow academy graduates. He has not looked out of place since returning to fitness and, having impressed as a substitute in recent weeks, he was outstanding from the start here, playing a starring role as Chelsea recorded a crushing victory over a clumsy Southampton side.

It was Hudson-Odoi who provided the early spark as Chelsea rose into fifth place, producing the assist for Tammy Abraham’s ninth goal of the season. All that was missing was a goal, though they were not in short supply for Lampard’s side. Mason Mount grabbed his fourth of the season, N’Golo Kanté his first, and a one-sided contest finished on an encouraging note for Christian Pulisic when the £58m signing from Borussia Dortmund vindicated Lampard’s decision to put him on when he created a late goal for his fellow substitute, Michy Batshuayi.

Something has clicked for Chelsea in the past month. Lampard is yet to name an unchanged side this season and his decision to bring Hudson-Odoi in for Reece James bore fruit when he produced a lovely assist for Chelsea’s opening goal. Given a few strong words of encouragement by César Azpilicueta and Jorginho shortly before kick-off, Hudson-Odoi looked determined to build on his recent impressive displays from the bench and he was excellent during the first half, causing problems for Southampton’s defence with his speed, vision and ability to drift inside from the left.

Chelsea had made a slow start, almost falling behind when Nathan Redmond’s long-range effort whistled inches over in the first minute, but danger lurked in the air whenever Hudson-Odoi was involved. There were signs of an understanding with Abraham when he darted on to a raking pass down the right flank and worked an opening for the striker, who rapped a low effort at Gunn, and Ralph Hasenhüttl must have been exasperated by his team’s failure to heed the warning.

There were 17 minutes on the clock when Hudson-Odoi looked up and sprayed a searching pass over the top for Abraham to chase. There was just enough pace on the ball to tempt Gunn off his line and the goalkeeper’s decision to race forward proved costly when Abraham, thinking as sharply as he was moving, improvised with a stunning lob that briefly hung in the air before falling from the sky and dropping over the line before Maya Yoshida could hook clear.

The buzzing on Paul Tierney’s watch confirmed a goal made in Chelsea’s academy and the visitors soon doubled their lead, ruthlessly capitalising on Southampton’s failure to clear their lines. The home side lost possession too easily and before they had time to react a deft touch from Willian had released Mount, who delighted in toying with Gunn before polishing the move with an emphatic finish.

Lampard must have been congratulating himself on deciding to start Hudson-Odoi and moving Mount into a central role at that stage. Southampton were reeling and Mount should have tightened Chelsea’s grip on the game after combining with Abraham. It was a surprise to see the 20-year-old midfielder drag his shot wide.

Southampton would punish that miss, halving the deficit when Yan Valery burst past Mount and Jorginho on the right before crossing for Danny Ings to bundle in from close range. A deflection off Kurt Zouma took the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga and all of a sudden Chelsea were looking ragged at the back, almost conceding an equaliser when Redmond burst through on the left before firing into the side netting.

Yet while Chelsea have only kept one clean sheet since appointing Lampard, they are covering up their defensive flaws with their attacking gusto. They restored their two-goal cushion when Kanté, given too much time just outside the Southampton area in the 40th minute, struck a shot that deflected off Jan Bednarek and left Gunn rooted to the spot.

Chelsea should have extended their lead at the start of the second half, only for Gunn to deny Hudson-Odoi, but the game was over as a contest after Kanté’s goal. Southampton, a point above the bottom three, have scored eight goals in their first eight matches. A comeback was never within their grasp and their misery deepened when Pulisic, given minutes in the league for the first time since 31 August, sent Batshuayi through to drill past Gunn. – Guardian

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