Chelsea's chances of catching Manchester United were already pretty slim going in to today's match against Southampton. Given the tumult surrounding the team since Rafa Benitez's appointment as manager, a home win over Southampton in a "game in hand" situation was basically a must if they wanted to have any hope of chasing down United.
Leading 2-0 with just over 30 minutes left, things looked good for Chelsea, but goals from Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon left the Blues stunned and forced them to settle for a 2-2 draw.
There was no doubt Chelsea was the better side during the opening quarter hour, but they weren't exactly terrorizing Southampton either. The Blues were not moving quickly at all, moving the ball through the midfield at a fairly lethargic rate and giving time for the Saints to react and cover most of their forays in the attacking third. Still, you felt a goal was coming and it finally did.
Demba Ba continued to prove he should be starting ahead of Fernando Torres, finally getting Chelsea on the scoreboard in the 25th minute. Frank Lampard started everything playing a ball back to Cesar Azpilicueta who put a cross in the box that was deflected up by Jos Hooiveld. Ba got in front of his defender and volleyed a shot as he fell backwards, putting the ball past Artur Boruc.
Is there any doubt that if Fernando Torres was on the end of that Hooiveld clearance the game would have remained scoreless? Anyone? Bueller? Yep, didn't think so.
Chelsea struck again just before the halftime whistle as Ramires smashed a shot off the woodwork the rebounded right to Eden Hazard. The Belgian made an extremely tricky shot look downright simple as he hit the ball at a full run, cutting in back across the goal and past Boruc to put the Blues ahead 2-0 at the break.
Just when everything seemed comfortable for Chelsea, Southampton pulled a goal back in the 58th minute. Nathaniel Clyne put a lovely ball in from the right that was headed past Peter Cech by Rickie Lambert to give the Saints a bit of a lifeline. Lambert hadn't even been on the pitch for three minutes (2:47 to be exact) when he scored.
Southampton were back for more in the 74th minute despite the fact that Chelsea had totally dominated the game after their first goal.
A giveaway in the midfield started the mess for Chelsea as 17-year old Luke Shaw came racing down the left wing, beating Cesar Azpilicueta before delivering a cross that was slightly deflected right to Jason Puncheon. As two Chelsea defenders stood as if stuck in the mud, Puncheon settled the ball, moved to a better angle and uncorked a shot past Cech to bring Soton back even at 2-2.
Chelsea never really threatened in the final minutes and Southampton were more than happy to play out the clock and leave with their point.