Poyet Pounces To Sink Saints (Sky Sports)
|FA Carling Premiership|
Chelsea, quietly and with the minimum of fuss, have edged closer to European qualification with their third consecutive league win.
Gus Poyet's 11th of the season just before the break was enough to lift The Blues to fifth and condemn Glenn Hoddle-less Southampton to their third straight defeat as their European hopes have slipped back into the realms of fantasy.
However, it was a nervy ride for the Bridge faithful, the tone being set by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's early miss.
The Blues did show commendable resolve - notable
by its absence earlier in the campaign - to subdue the visitors' combative
midfield and lively counter-attacks.
After Paul Jones had foiled Hasselbaink when he burst through onto Gianfranco Zola's pinpoint pass in the opening minutes, the home side were restricted to speculative efforts from distance.
Kevin Davies hammered The Saints' best opportunity over the top before Poyet struck.
Graeme Le Saux's long cross was headed back across goal by Mario Melchiot for the Uruguayan to shoot on the turn, and the ball bounced up over Jones and in off the underside of the bar.
Former Blue Dan Petrescu denied Marcel Desailly a second with a goal-line header early in the second period, before watching his colleague James Beattie, so prolific in recent weeks, smack a header against the goal frame at the other end from no more than six yards.
The visitors took succour from this, and Petrescu should have done better than shooting straight at Carlo Cudicini after breaking clear.
With the clock running down, Jones saved well from Wise and Poyet, while Hasselbaink fluffed another good opening.
Only the long leg of Melchiot then prevented Petrescu from claiming the equaliser after Cudicini had strayed from his goal, and home hearts were aflutter as Beattie's ensuing free-kick was deflected inches wide.
MAN OF THE MATCH: On his return to the Bridge, Dan Petrescu turned on the style to impress his former colleagues with a tireless display.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Terry,
Desailly, Melchiot, Le Saux, Dalla Bona, Poyet, Wise, Stanic (Jokanovic 45),
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Babayaro, Gudjohnsen, Gronkjaer.
Booked: Terry, Jokanovic, Melchiot.
Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Richards, Lundekvam, Bridge, Petrescu, Draper (Kachloul 68), Oakley (El Khalej 79), Tessem, Beattie, Davies (Rosler 79).
Subs Not Used: Marsden, Moss.
Booked: Beattie, Draper, Tessem.
Ref: C Wilkes (Gloucester).