Chelsea stunned by late Jannik Vestergaard equaliser as Southampton expose Blues’ defensive vulnerability

Vithushan Ehantharajah
·4-min read
Jannick Vestergaard of Southampton celebrates (Getty)
Jannick Vestergaard of Southampton celebrates (Getty)

It’s hard to make too many judgements of those who dipped further into their pockets for the Premier League’s first pay-per-view offering. But if you did decide to dip further into your pockets for this match between Chelsea and Southampton, at least you were not short-changed.

Not by much, anyway. The £14.99 price-tag is tone-deaf given the state of the country, but for that very same reason this engaging fixture, honours even at 3-3, provided satisfaction and distraction for all barring those cheering blue.

The reaction of the two managers said it all. Frank Lampard, scorned, like someone fooled into trusting too soon. Ralph Hassenhutl, joyous and full of vigour, justified for his implicit trust in a group of players who kept going for 90 minutes, and the additional two that would eventually bring their equaliser.

While Lampard will rue that most of his players did not give a good account of themselves, he can have no such gripe with Timo Werner. The 24-year old was responsible for all three goal – scoring two and assisting the other – and anything else good that Chelsea produced today.

If you were not across his work at RB Leipzig, then here was a potted CV of a performance from the Germany forward. Sharp pace, an even sharper mind and a penchant for seeing what lurks at the end of atypical avenues.

Jannick Vestergaard of Southampton celebratesGetty
Jannick Vestergaard of Southampton celebratesGetty

It took him 15 minutes to get off the mark, though his 13th attempt to finally notch that first Premier League goal. Even more reassuring for him was the manner of it: a ball into feet that most forwards would hold up, dummied to trick Jan Bednarek into being nutmegged. Before the centre-back had time to process his embarrassment, Werner was into the box, beating two. Other defenders as he shifted onto his right before shooting hard and low past Alex McCarthy.

His second, with 28 on the clock, was a similar combination of hood-winking and athleticism, albeit in a slightly different order: latching onto Jorginho’s ball over the top, again getting ahead of a defender - this time Jannik Vesteregard - before lifting the ball over McCarthy and heading in from a couple of yards out.

Indeed, Werner was the poster-boy for Chelsea’s attacking four, featuring Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic, who was making his first start since the FA Cup final at the start of August.

To a point, they were interchangeable, all capable of receiving the ball, carrying it forward or pulling the opposition out of position. Mount occupied the left, Pulisic the right, but neither existing solely in those lanes, especially when Havertz and Werner fancied a change from the middle. Without them, Southampton, organised and purposeful in possession, could have emerged with more than just a point.

Timo Werner scored twice for ChelseaPOOL/AFP via Getty Images
Timo Werner scored twice for ChelseaPOOL/AFP via Getty Images

Southampton were able to go in at half-time just a goal down. Kepa, starting just his third game of the season after Edouard Mendy was sidelined through injury, was rounded by Danny Ings who slotted his fourth of the season.

Then, 12 minutes into the second-half, a comical equaliser. It went to Che Adams and involved a botched back-pass from Kurt Zouma, a soft closing down from Kepa, two hits of the near post - one from Kepa himself - and then, eventually, the rippling of the net.

At another time, such rake-stepping calamity would have been enough to puncture the collective self-esteem. But a reminder of the disconnect between the front and back of this Chelsea side came just 121 seconds later when Havertz restored the lead.

The finish, guided in from six yards out, was the finishing touch on the best move of the match. A ball out of defence found Werner on the right, who drove and passed inside to Pulisic. The American returned the favour with a through pass which was laid into the path of his fellow countryman.

3-2 is how it looked likely to finish until, two minutes into added on time, Theo Walcott - on his second-debut for Southampton - fired a ball into a crowded box where Vestergard stooped to head into the far corner. The inevitability of the moment looked in danger of being compounded in the two minutes that were left.

That it wasn’t will not change Lampard’s mood. Even the coherence of Chelsea’s attacking four is offset by the £177million required to pull them together. Not to mention Hakim Ziyech, a £36m arrival from Ajax, who came on for his debut on 72 minutes. There’s a reason the guy who was in charge of the bookings at Abbey Road studios does not get a credit on Beatles records.

Lampard's biggest challenge remains wising up a questionable backline, a problem that cannot be sorted by cash alone. And here was more evidence for his doubters that doing so is beyond him.