The Warm Down: Chelsea overcome resilient Saints to go top of the league
(Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea took all three points against the ten men of Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton after a pulsating match at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

Chelsea started the game strongly, with Trevoh Chalobah opening the scoring just nine minutes in with a header from a Ruben Loftus-Cheek flick on, to the delight of the soaking wet fans in the stadium.

The home side appeared to be in cruise control for much of the next 10 minutes, which included a goal for Romelu Lukaku being ruled out as the Belgian was offside from an Antonio Rudiger pass.

A further disallowed goal came around 5 minutes before the interval, when the ever-unlucky Timo Werner had a goal chalked off due to a debatable ‘foul in the build-up’.

In contrast, the second half began with far more intent from the visitors, who did well to win a penalty when Ben Chilwell took down former Blue Tino Livramento, before James Ward-Prowse tucked away the spot kick.

16 minutes later the aforementioned Saints’ goal scorer was the centre of attention again when a VAR check resulted in him being sent off for serious foul play after a mistimed tackle on Jorginho.

After huffing and puffing to no avail throughout the second 45 minutes, Tuchel’s team finally got the elusive second goal, and eventual winner, when Timo Werner got a long-awaited goal.

The win was sealed just five minutes later when, after an almost unbelievable passage of play with regards to missed chances, Ben Chilwell struck a sweet volley that Alex McCarthy couldn’t keep out.

A 3-1 win takes Chelsea to the top of the Premier League, albeit potentially temporarily, and puts them in good stead heading into the upcoming international break next week.

Timo finally gets some reprieve

It’s no secret that Timo Werner has had a pretty tough time in front of goal, and on the pitch more generally, over the past year since he joined the Blues last summer under Frank Lampard at the time.

The German striker has failed to ever get a run of form going, being criticised many times for his seemingly lack of finishing ability on multiple occasions when leading the line for the Blues.

In fact, this game was something of a microcosm for his time in West London as it involved a goal ruled out by VAR, a squandered opportunity and an impressive amount of running throughout.

What set it apart from the rest of his games in England however, was the fact that he capped his performance off with a goal, and the winner in the end no less too.

It was hard not to feel for him as he first saw a goal wiped off due to an extremely controversial VAR call in the first half, adding to his reputation as somebody who simply cannot catch a break.

He then failed to convert a one-on-one chance in the second half, and while the Saints’ keeper deserves credit for the world class save, it seemed to be yet another game where Timo wouldn’t finish his chances.

That was all until the 84th minute though, when the 25-year-old was on the end of an exquisite Chelsea move involving Ross Barkley, Cesar Azpilicueta and himself.

There couldn’t have been a more satisfying end to the game than that for a player who has struggled so much over the past year - and Blues’ fans will hope this is just the start.

VAR causes controversy again

While Thomas Tuchel will be pleased he can focus on how his side overcame the opposition through purely traditional football means, it may have been a different story had they not taken all three points.

There was no shortage of VAR controversy, which had appeared to have subsided slightly in this 2021/22 season, but reared its ugly head again on Saturday afternoon at the Bridge.

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First up was the previously mentioned disallowed Werner goal late in the first half which involved looking back further in the phase of play than even some Southampton players seemed to be possible.

A foul over 20 seconds before the goal was referenced, with that decision itself controversial enough due to the soft nature of the infringement, much to the frustration of Tuchel and his coaching staff.

Then there was an issue over the red card for James Ward-Prowse, and more specifically how long the decision took to be taken both by the VAR Mike Dean and the on-field referee Martin Atkinson.

Overall, while it was thankfully not the main talking point by the full time whistle due to the win the home side managed to get, it was a major part of the game and ought to be discussed.

Regardless, the fundamental story of the game on a soaking wet Saturday afternoon is that of Timo Werner - oh, and VAR of course.

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