Chelsea eased past Southampton to claim a 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League, as Eden Hazard's first half effort saw the Blues cruise past their lacklustre opposition.
The visitors took the lead in the 30th minute, as Ross Barkley won position back deep in the opposition half, before sliding through Eden Hazard, who curled home a trademark clinical finish.
Barkley added a goal to his assist midway through the second half, as the England international tapped in from close range after an acrobatic cross from Olivier Giroud. Substitute Álvaro Morata made it 3-0 late on, dinking a delicate finish over the sprawling Southampton keeper after an incisive through-ball from Hazard.
Key Talking Point
Southampton began the game much like Newcastle United did when hosting the Blues - sitting back and allowing the west Londoners all the time and space they like to go about their business. With twenty minutes on the clock, the Saints upped the game and attacked their opponents, and should have taken the lead following some bold forward play.
Once Chelsea got the opener, Southampton went back into their shells, and despite a couple of impressive spells, they never really looked like causing Maurizio Sarri's side any problems at the back. If the Saints are to survive the drop, they would do well to trust their attacking instincts, and spending time practising is imperative to their progress.
Starting XI: McCarthy (6); Cédric (5), Yoshida (6), Bednarek (6), Hoedt (7), Bertrand (6); Lemina (6), Hojbjerg (5), Redmond (5); Gabbiadini (6), Ings (4).
Substitutes: Romeu (6) Long (6)
Star Man: Wesley Hoedt
Going up against Eden Hazard is always an unenviable task, but Wesley Hoedt performed admirably despite the scoreline - thwarting the Belgian ace on a number of occasions. While ultimately he was unable to prevent Hazard from getting on the score sheet, Hoedt made a number of key tackles, and spared his side a crushing defeat with his tireless performance.
Here's how his performance went down on social media (Mixed responses!):
Hoedt has been superb today— Aishwary Upadhyay (@AishwaryUp) October 7, 2018
We are one down but Hoedt has had one of his best 30 minutes in a saints shirt till that point. Good press from Barkley.— Matt (@Yoshidaista) October 7, 2018
Worst Player - Danny Ings
There are misses, and there are misses. Danny Ings' first half howler falls very much into the second camp, after he somehow missed an open goal after scuffing Ryan Bertrand's deft delivery over the bar. The former Liverpool man did little to atone for his dire effort, and was unable to give his side the cutting edge they desperately needed going forward.
Key Talking Point:
The 'Sarriball' revolution appears to be working wonders for Chelsea, with their dynamic forward line once again on top form against the Saints on Sunday. While the Blues looked bereft of ideas in the final third last season, Sarri's side are bursting with creativity - allowing talismanic forward Eden Hazard to flourish in a formation that suits him down to the ground.
Chelsea have overcome a number of tough tests in the early stages of the season, and have proven their title credentials by going unbeaten in the first eight matches of the competition. Their next match, at home to Manchester United, will be a golden opportunity to make a statement of their intent to challenge for the league, and Sarri will be itching to get the win.
Starting XI: Kepa (8); Azpilicueta (7), Rüdiger (7), David Luiz (7), Marcos Alonso (7); Jorginho (8), Barkley (9), Kanté (8); Willian (6), Giroud (7), Hazard (8)
Substitutes: Morata (7) Pedro (6) Kovacic (N/A)
Star Man: Ross Barkley
Barkley looks a new man under Sarri, and the England international celebrated his recall to the national team with a stellar performance on Sunday. Many critics suggested that the fast paced 'Sarriball' played under their new manager would be too complex for Barkley to handle, but the 24-year-old has shown himself to be more than capable of adapting his style of play.
Chelsea fans have long bemoaned the lack of English talent in their side, and will be delighted to see Barkley being given a chance to prove himself. The former Everton man has slipped off the radar in recent times, but his efforts to improve both his fitness levels and technical ability are really starting to pay dividends.
Here's how his performance went down on social media:
Really been impressed with Ross Barkley today. One goal, one assist, and some great play up through the middle. I know he's been waiting a long time for the opportunity to shine. Fantastic to see him finally do it.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) October 7, 2018
Massive credit to Ross Barkley there. Forceful stuff & a nice assist to the best in the PL.— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) October 7, 2018
People doubting Barkley last week, worshipping him this week. Key is to not be reactionary.— Simon Phillips (@SiPhillipsSport) October 7, 2018
Always rated Barkley, knew he had it in him, just needed someone like Sarri to bring it out. Up the Chels!
Ross Barkley has been incredible today.— Uber Chelsea FC 🏆 (@UberCheIseaFC) October 7, 2018
Worst Player - Willian
To be fair, none of the Chelsea players had a shocker at all. However, Willian appeared to be showing signs of tiredness after his midweek endeavours with his side in the Europa League, and wasn't quite at his usual exuberant best. Still, it was far from a nightmare outing, with the Blues putting in an all round excellent team effort.
Southampton will head into the international break deeply concerned over their position in the league, as they now lie in 16th place with just five points. Mark Hughes and the squad will have a chance to redeem themselves and get some much needed points on the board next time out, when they take on Eddie Howe's high flying Bournemouth later in the month.
Buoyed by another important win, Chelsea will believe that they are very much in the title race, and will host Manchester United on the 20th October as they look to get one over on their former manager José Mourinho.