Blue Santa hats were the fashion of the day as Chelsea ground out a 1-0 victory over Southampton at the Bridge, to keep their place among the also-rans behind sure-to-be champions Man City.
For the Blues it was, at times, a frustrating afternoon. With Alvaro Morata on the bench after recovering from a back injury, Chelsea again lined up with Eden Hazard as a false No9 alongside Willian and Pedro.
But what worked a dream up at Huddersfield felt flat and lifeless at home to the Saints, who initially tried to frustrate Chelsea by playing at snail’s pace, then belatedly threatened Thibaut Courtois’ goal once the home side had taken the lead.
N’Golo Kante, making his 50th appearance for the Blues, was his majestic best, but the first half was a yawning, soporific affair which only really came to life in the second minute of stoppage time. Southampton captain Maya Yoshida was booked on the edge of the Saints’ area for a foul on Hazard, Willian shaped up to take the free kick… then Marcos Alonso booted the ball around the wall and into the corner of Fraser Forster’s goal.
And 1-0 it remained, even though Southampton put in a better showing in the second half, after Charlie Austin came on as sub.
It was not a great spectacle, overall. But it was three more points as Chelsea keep in touch with the leaders.