Chelsea lost consecutive home league games for the first time since 2011 as Southampton earned a key win in their fight against relegation at Stamford Bridge.
The home side never got going during the opening 45 minutes and Michael Obafemi’s superbly taken strike from 18 yards gave Saints a deserved lead.
The introduction of Mason Mount for defender Kurt Zouma at the break threatened to inject energy into Frank Lampard’s side but only a vital Fikayo Tomori intervention prevented the away side a second.
And with 20 minutes remaining, a superb team move saw the ball break for Nathan Redmond and his simple finish from 10 yards wrapped up six points for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side from festive away games at Aston Villa and the Blues.
Abject Chelsea lose five from seven
Hasenhuttl was suitably impressed and raced on to the pitch with his fists clenched on the final whistle after a result which moved his side up to 14th in the Premier League – three points above the drop zone.
Southampton – on 21 points – are six better off than they were at the same halfway stage last season. Lampard can only dream of such progress with Chelsea fourth in the Premier League but eight points worse off than they were under Maurizio Sarri after 19 games last term.
This defeat means Chelsea have now lost five of their last seven league games and their display was in keeping with such form.
Despite coming off Sunday’s win at Tottenham, Chelsea found no sort of rhythm and when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg found Obafemi, he was allowed time and space to progress, shift the ball on to his left foot and fire high into the net from the edge of the box.
Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta flicked a corner into the six-yard box – forcing the impressive Alex McCarthy to help the ball away from danger – but it took the home side until the stroke of half-time to find the target with a tame effort from 30 yards.
Mount came off the bench and quickly gave Tammy Abraham the chance to fizz a shot into the side-netting. The striker was denied a second chance shortly after when Jack Stephens crucially blocked his path to goal.
But Chelsea were collectively poor and both Tomori and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga make key second-half interventions to keep the score at 1-0.
Lampard’s side ran over 5km less than the visitors overall and generally lacked creativity and energy. The January transfer window – where they can again sign players after serving a ban – looks key to giving them the chance to inject something fresh and change their recent fortunes.
Brave Ralph and a brave display
Arsenal and Liverpool were the last sides to record back-to-back wins at Chelsea in 2011 and Southampton deserved to follow Bournemouth in leaving Stamford Bridge with all three points in December.
Hassenhuttl made the brave call to leave Danny Ings on the bench, despite his 11 goals leaving him second to only Jamie Vardy in the top-scorer charts this season.
Obafemi – who had not netted in over a year – and Che Adams – who is yet to score for Saints – worked relentlessly for the away side, while James Ward-Prowse was the only player on the pitch to run over 12km in a tireless display.
The midfielder contributed nine tackles – three more than anyone on the pitch – while the Southampton back four repeatedly seemed well positioned, with Stephens and right-back Cedric Soares constantly turning crosses away.
The gutsy offering ended a run of 13 league games without a clean sheet and they have now lost just twice in seven league outings as they go into two home fixtures either side of New Year.
Hassenhuttl will also get the chance to strengthen in January but he looks to have harnessed a superb spirit, a feat that looked unlikely after a 9-0 home defeat by Leicester just 10 games ago.
Southampton now have back-to-back home games against Crystal Palace on Saturday and Tottenham on New Year’s Day. Chelsea face a trip to Arsenal on 29 December and then go to Brighton on 1 January.
More to follow.