An inspired substitute appearance from Olivier Giroud has kept Chelsea's top four hopes alive, after they secured a stunning 3-2 victory from two goals down against relegation battlers Southampton on Saturday. 

By 90Min
April 14, 2018

An inspired substitute appearance from Olivier Giroud has kept Chelsea's top four hopes alive, after they secured a stunning 3-2 victory from two goals down against relegation battlers Southampton on Saturday. 

An energized and driven Saints side made a lackluster Chelsea pay the price in the opening half as Dušan Tadic converted with ease, before Jan Bednarek marked his first league start with a stunning half volley finish in the second term. 

However, while the Saints looked to have consigned Chelsea to their fourth consecutive away league defeat, an eight minute spell inspired by Giroud late transformed St Mary's from a dreamland into a nightmare for the home side. Eden Hazard leveled the scores before the Frenchman added the finishing touches to an unbelievable comeback. 

A sunny spring day on the south coast saw two of the league's most out of form sides since the turn of the year take center stage. Southampton were without a win in six and on the cusp of relegation, and Chelsea who have moved further adrift of the top four following just three wins in 2018.  

The Saints, buoyed by their showing at Arsenal, were quick to start on the front foot in a bid to expose the Chelsea defense; a defense that had failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight games across all competitions prior to their trip to St Mary's. 

The Blues' frailties at the back did not take long to rear its ugly head, however, as 20 minutes of peppering the visitors' area finally reaped its rewards for the home side.

Ryan Bertrand's bursting run down the left-hand side from the half way line exposed César Azpilicueta who was out-paced and out-muscled in the penalty box, allowing Tadic to be teed up for a simple finish on the six-yard line. 

The opening goal confirmed the lingering nervous energy lifted from both the players and the home supporters, as rapturous noise met every tackle and forward movement as the Saints continued to expose the space in-behind Chelsea's back line for much of the opening half.  

Antonio Conte's side meanwhile continued to flood the middle of the field without much impetus, as Southampton looked to break up play at every opportune moment, creating an air of frustration among the visitors' ranks. 

While Southampton were intense on the ball, Chelsea closed the half lucky to still have ten men on the field. A horrific tackle from Marcos Alonso saw the defender rake his studs down the back of Shane Long's leg which went unpunished by referee Mike Dean.

While Chelsea's creative players were curtailed in the opening half, the Saints started the second term penned into their own half as the visitors looked for an early equalizer to push the pressure back onto the relegation threatened side. 

However, it was Hughes' men who looked to have found their way onto the score sheet for the second time of the afternoon, after a high ball fell to an on running Long who slipped past two defenders to unleash a dipping strike which required the intervention of Thibaut Courtois.

The previous warning failed to be heeded, however, as Southampton doubled their lead with 60 minutes on the clock. Bednarek, on his debut, was left unmarked at the back post as he fired home on the half volley following a pin point delivery from James Ward-Prowse. 

Despite Chelsea appearing to be out of the contest, an eight minute blitz of quality turned the games on its head, as the Blues clinched victory from the jaws of defeat following an inspired substitute appearance from Giroud.

The striker had positioned himself perfectly between Southampton's center-backs to nod Alonso's delivery into the near corner beyond a helpless Alex McCarthy in the 70th minute.

Hazard leveled the scores merely five minutes later with an emphatic finish from the middle of the penalty area, taking advantage of Southampton's crumbling defense which had looked so assured for much of proceedings. 

However, the Blues were not finished there, as the shell shocked home side wilted and watched their dreams of Premier League safety pass by as yet another delivery from the left-hand side caught Southampton napping.

Giroud​ made the Saints pay again as the French striker fired through a crowded penalty area to secure a stunning comeback. 

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