The Blues took an early lead in the Saturday tea-time kick-off thanks to another Willian free-kick but could not build on the advantage.

Southampton levelled shortly before the interval through Steven Davies after what had been a fairly even first half and then had the better of the second period, going ahead on the hour and extending the lead on the break not long after. Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle were the scorers.

Falcao was not given a penalty with the score 1-1 when the goalkeeper dived at his feet and made contact, Southampton having had an appeal of their own turned down earlier in the game, but Chelsea on the attack could not create the openings to turn this contest around, instead going down to our second home defeat of the season.

John Terry was back in the starting line-up for the first time in the league since the defeat at Everton in mid-September. Kurt Zouma was the defender to make way and there were also starts for Oscar and Falcao while Loic Remy, the third player who had remained working at Cobham this week while their colleagues took on Porto, was on the bench. This was Falcao’s first league start for Chelsea.

Willian, on target twice in the past eight days, was preferred to Pedro on the right flank and Ramires who had been so influential recently was preferred to Nemanja Matic alongside Cesc Fabregas in central midfield. Eden Hazard was back in the starting 11.

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The previous outing at Stamford Bridge was the impressive win over Arsenal. Since then the Blues had hit the road and travelled overseas for three away games which yielded a win, a draw and a defeat, so the opening minutes of this game were going to be keenly observed for early indicators of what level of performance was likely today.

The referee’s whistle and the offside flag were most prominent for a while after kick-off. Gary Cahill headed one free-kick behind for a corner that was easily claimed by Asmir Begovic.

Then Hazard took off towards the Saints area and was clipped by Oriol Romeu at the expense of the game’s first card.

The free-kick was wide of the goal but to the left, but that meant it was sited in what is fast becoming prime Willian territory. The Brazilian obliged with an even better version of the strike bent behind the defence to test the keeper at his far post. Maarten Stekelenburg was found wanting and the ball cannoned into the net off the upright. There were 10 minutes played and it was just the start we needed.

Davis shanked a shot wide for Southampton when he was found in space inside our box before the next two Chelsea attacks which both centred on Oscar. The second was a worthy shot given the lack of room to manoeuvre the ball but it was off-target. Hazard too tested the Saints defence.

Midway through the half, Fabregas and Oscar worked the ball through the smallest of gaps and the latter’s clever attempt to beat the keeper lacked just a little height. There were moments of bright football being played.

Ryan Bertrand followed his fellow former Blue Romeu into the book for a trip on Willian before Sadio Mane twice claimed fouls for challenges from Ramires, the first in the box, the second resulting in a booking for the Saints winger for simulation.

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The game was in a fallow period in terms of chances at either end. Cahill was alert enough to head a ball behind at the near post when Southampton worked a dangerous free-kick and Begovic was stretched by a cross that was drifting towards the target. He also saved from Bertrand who was played through on an overlapping run as half-time approached. That was a good opening not taken.

Ramires went into the book for what the referee indicated was one foul too many and the visitors had been looking the stronger side for the past 10 minutes. They were rewarded with their equaliser just before the break. Davis was the scorer with a very well-struck shot kept low from just outside the area that gave Begovic no chance. It had been teed up by Pelle who chested down a long ball while holding off the Blues defence.

A foul on Oscar gave hope of quickly restoring the advantage but this time Willian drove the ball into the wall.

Both managers decided to alter their central midfields for the second half – Matic coming on for Ramires with James Ward-Prowse for Romeu the Saints switch. It was Ronald Koeman’s substitute who eventually shot wide after the visitors had a series of attempts blocked in quick succession, as they restarted on the front foot.

An Oscar cross was whipped in but it was too high for Falcao. Our no.9 was then involved in one of the game’s big talking points with 56 minutes played. Chelsea were building pressure and Fabregas struck one of his side’s best passes of the game. Falcao stretched to control it and then collided with the keeper for what looked a penalty to many watching on. The ref however booked the Chelsea man.

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Southampton took the lead just short of the hour. The danger started when the ball was lost a couple of times midway inside our half. Mane took possession and turned past Terry at the same time and although his shot struck Begovic, it still had enough momentum to make the net.

Terry showed how the sort of free-kick Willian scored with should be defended with a strong header upfield, but now the Blues needed to rediscover our teeth in attack quickly.

Pedro had been introduced in place of Willian but it was the Saints who struck again, this time on the counter-attack after a Hazard pass in their half did not reach its target. Pelle produced the emphatic finish.

Remy came on for previous substitute Matic as a greater threat up front was sought. Terry did well to get his body in the way of a Tadic shot after the lively Mane battled past Cahill to cross.

The final 10 minutes began and Stekelenburg made a mess of claiming a Remy cross but it did not fall kindly for the closing Hazard. The threat stayed alive and Falcao’s shot cleared the bar by not much.

Pelle joined the list of players booked for fouls on Hazard and Falcao lined up to take the free-kick 20 yards out. The strike was looking good but skimmed off the wall and went over.

Pedro tried to jink his way through a penalty-area crowd during added time but we would not have the opportunity to take aim at the target again.