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Giroud double breaks Saints hearts
Giroud double breaks Saints hearts

Giroud double breaks Saints hearts

Written by Gideon Sarpong
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Substitute Olivier Giroud scored twice as Chelsea came from 2-0 down to win at Southampton and keep alive their faint hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Dusan Tadic's opener, a placed effort following Ryan Bertrand's marauding run, and Polish defender Jan Bednarek's left-footed shot looked to be lifting Saints out of the bottom three.

But, with Mark Hughes seemingly on course for a first league victory as Southampton manager since arriving on 14 March, Giroud sparked a listless Chelsea into life.

The France forward's header - his first league goal for Antonio Conte's team - and left-footed drive sandwiched Eden Hazard's left-foot finish as the Blues moved within seven points of fourth-placed Tottenham.

For an hour, Chelsea's performance epitomised their travails since the turn of the year, with the defending champions having collected just 12 points from the previous 33 available.

Willian's 55th-minute shot was their first effort on target, and there were question marks over the application of several players in the build-up to both Saints goals.

One of those players - wing-back Marcos Alonso - was also fortunate to escape without punishment for standing on the back of Southampton forward Shane Long's calf in the first half.

Southampton remain 18th as they try to avoid slipping into the Championship for the first time since 2011-12.

No respite for Southampton or Hughes

After being sacked by Stoke, Hughes is facing the ignominious prospect of playing a part in the relegation of two clubs this season.

The upturn in results the Saints board hoped for when the Welshman was brought in to replace Mauricio Pellegrino just over a month ago has not materialised.

While an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea is on the horizon, Hughes has presided over three successive league defeats, with three goals conceded in each match.

Following an abject 3-0 defeat at West Ham, there were encouraging signs in a 3-2 defeat at Arsenal last Sunday, and more of the same against Chelsea.

Southampton controlled proceedings for about 70 minutes, but their biggest problem is turning performances into points.

One victory in 20 league matches - against bottom club West Brom - does not bode well for the Saints, who could be six points adrift of safety later.