Arsenal the new threat to off-form Chelsea
Unconvincing draw enough to extend Chelsea's lead over misfiring Man City – but Arsenal are fast gaining ground
Chelsea 1 Southampton 1. Diego Costa scored his first goal since January for Chelsea yesterday, but it wasn't enough to give the league leaders the victory against a spirited Saints side.
Dusan Tasic equalised from the penalty spot just eight minutes later after Nemanja Matic had fouled Sadio Mane, and that's how it finished.
The draw, coming the day after Manchester City suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat away at lowly Burnley, stretches Chelsea lead at the top of the table to six points, although the Blues might soon start looking nervously over their shoulder at Arsenal.
The Gunners brushed aside West Ham 3-0 at the Emirates – their fifth league win on the bounce – and they are now just one point behind City and seven behind Chelsea.
Chelsea needed a strong performance after their exit from the Champions League last week but they were poor in the first half and only Costa's header on 11 minutes brought the Stamford Bridge crowd to their feet.
After Tasic had equalised for Southampton he almost added another soon after when his angled shot was well saved by Thibaut Courtois. And the Belgian keeper was called into action again before the break, athletically preventing Toby Alderweireld's free-kick from finding the back of the net.
Chelsea, who had a penalty shout of their own dismissed when referee Mike Dean showed no interest in Ivanovic's claim that he had been clipped by Tadic, improved after the interval with the introduction of Ramires for Matic in midfield. But alas for the Blues, Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster was in brilliant form, denying Oscar, Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta and substitute Loic Remy with a string of outstanding saves.
"In the second half the players had the desire, the mentality and stability," reflected Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. "We created more stability than we had in the last matches."
And Mourinho couldn't resist a little dig at the TV pundits who in recent weeks have been highly critical of the Chelsea boss. Asked about the penalty claim that wasn't given, he replied: "My opinion is not important. It's the referee's decision and the pundits' opinions."
In Sunday's other big game, Manchester United recovered from being knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal last week by dispatching their north London neighbours with ease. First-half goals from Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney settled the match before the break, and ultimately moved United to within two points of Manchester City and just one behind Arsenal.
"We can be very pleased with the performance, the result and our reaction to the defeat against Arsenal," said Louis van Gaal, who then described the top of the table as "a rat race".
As for Spurs, the defeat leaves them in seventh spot, six points behind United and now facing a real struggle to qualify for next season's Champions League. "We are disappointed because our performance today was very poor and we have to analyse why," reflected Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino. " We were never in the game."