Just when it looked like Christian Pulisic had been the difference-maker for Chelsea on Saturday in his first start of the Premier League season, another horrendous defensive performance by the Blues left Frank Lampard’s team having to settle for a 3-3 draw against Southampton.
Saints defender Jannik Vestergaard prevented Chelsea from securing the win when he pulled the visitors level for the second time in the match deep into second-half stoppage time:
Timo Werner looked to have Chelsea on its way to all three points when he scored twice in the opening half-hour of the game in London, including his first Premier League goal:
The Blues were rolling after the German striker’s second strike, which was set up by a slick long pass from Olivier Giroud that Werner delicately chipped over Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy.
But as it often has during the young 2020-21 season, the hosts’ suspect goalkeeping and back line ended up costing them dearly.
By early in the second half, the Saints had erased the 2-0 deficit on goals by Danny Ings and Che Adams. The latter was a result of two calamitous errors by center back Kurt Zouma and gaffe-happy keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was only starting because new signee Édouard Mendy is injured.
Without Pulisic on the field for most of this season, the Blues had lacked the cutting edge that the 22-year-old provided toward the end of the 2019-20 campaign, his first in England, when he returned from the three-month coronavirus-caused shutdown and established himself as one of the most dangerous attacking players in the entire Prem. But his injured hamstring hamstrung Lampard’s side so far this term.
As a result, they were maddeningly inconsistent, with a loss to Liverpool and a last-gasp draw against West Ham bookended by less-than-convincing wins over Brighton and Crystal Palace. Now finally fit again, Pulisic appeared to have rescued the win for Chelsea in this one.
Shortly after Adams’ equalizer, the American slalomed his way though the plucky Saints’ midfield, breaking lines and tackles before deftly releasing Werner in behind the defense. Werner squared the ball to countryman Kai Havertz, who basically walked it into the net.
While he only got a secondary assist, the goal was made by Pulisic:
And it should’ve been enough. Instead, Vestergaard relegated Chelsea to a tie that, for Lampard and Co., surely feels like a defeat. The disappointing result was a costly: Instead of pulling even with second-place Liverpool on 10 points, the Blues slipped back to sixth. By the end of the weekend, depending on how other results go, Chelsea could drop well into the bottom half of the table.
That’s what happens when teams squander points in the most competitive league on the planet. And until Chelsea sorts out its defensive shortcomings, it’s going to have to try to outscore every opponent it faces. On this day at least, two goals and an assist by Werner couldn’t get the job done. And while his return to the starting 11 was a welcome development, neither could Pulisic’s subtle moment of magic.
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