Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian came off the bench to score a goal apiece and lead Chelsea to a 3-0 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium. The arrival of Oscar was particularly pivotal as he played a part in all three goals, setting up the opener for Fernando Torres, to mean Chelsea keep pace with their Premier League title rivals.
After back-to-back narrow wins over Swansea City and Liverpool, Chelsea now appear to be hitting ominous form as they keep the pressure on Manchester City and Arsenal, just a point and two points, respectively, above them.
Captain John Terry had called their first-half showing against Liverpool on Sunday their best of the season so far, but, after a fast start in which Torres twice threatened, it was a more subdued opening 45 minutes by Jose Mourinho’s side this time around.
Southampton, with just one win in eight matches coming in, had Uruguayan creator Gaston Ramirez making his first Premier League start of the season, and enjoyed plenty of possession. The former Bologna man’s free-kick early in the second-half led to quick-fire chances for the home side as central defenders Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte both had efforts blocked.
But it was to be Mourinho’s decision to bring on Oscar and Willian for Andre Schurrle and the visibly disgruntled Juan Mata in the 53rd minute that changed the face of the game. Within seven minutes Oscar, somewhat fortuitously had created the opening goal.
Before that, though, he was involved in the game’s most controversial incident. Oscar went clean through on goal and took the ball past Kelvin Davis before appearing to deliberately leave his leg outstretched to ensure contact with the Southampton goalkeeper and go tumbling to the turf. Referee Martin Atkinson impressively saw the maneuver for what it was and booked Oscar, rather than awarding a penalty and a red card for Davis.
But minutes later, Oscar would have a more positive, if somewhat fortuitous impact. On the hour mark, his cross from the left took a wicked deflection off of Callum Chambers to take it onto the far post and Torres anticipated quicker than anyone else to finish from close range.
Oscar laid on a more conventional assist 11 minutes later. This time he rolled a pass across the edge of the box for his fellow substitute Willian, who brought the ball onto his right foot before striking a powerful low drive into the net for his second Premier League goal.
The victory was complete eight minutes from time. Eden Hazard lofted a first-time pass over the pushed up Southampton defense to set Oscar away into the box and he made no mistake with a low left-footed strike past Davis at his near post to ensure Chelsea began 2014 with a flourish.