Giroud leads Chelsea fightback in 3-2 win at Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Chelsea scored three goals in eight minutes, including two from substitute Olivier Giroud, in a stirring second-half comeback from 2-0 down to beat relegation-threatened Southampton 3-2 in the English Premier League on Saturday.
The victory kept alive fifth-place Chelsea’s slim hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, with seven points now separating Chelsea from Tottenham and Liverpool above them.
After goals from Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek put Southampton 2-0 ahead by the 60th minute, Giroud headed in Marcos Alonso’s cross to start the fightback in the 70th — nine minutes after coming on for the ineffective Alvaro Morata.
Eden Hazard slammed in a finish from close range in the 75th, and Giroud met a weak headed clearance with a driven half-volley into the bottom corner in the 78th.
They were the first goals for Chelsea in the Premier League for Giroud, who gained a reputation as a so-called “super-sub” in his time at Arsenal before moving to Stamford Bridge in January.
Southampton stayed in the relegation zone with five games left, and manager Mark Hughes was aggrieved that Alonso avoided punishment for a studs-up challenge on Shane Long in the first half.
A retrospective ban could rule Alonso out of a rematch between the teams in the FA Cup semifinals on April 22.
“Thankfully he’s just about OK, but he’s been raked down the calf,” Hughes said. “Chelsea down to 10 men, it could have put a different complexion on things.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte refused to comment on Alonso avoiding any punishment for the tackle, but praised his players for shaking off a woeful first-half showing at St. Mary’s.
“I was very angry from our first half,” Conte said. “In the second half, we showed great character, great determination and desire to win the game. We showed the right fire in our eyes.”
Antonio Rudiger was omitted from Chelsea’s match-day squad, having recently criticized the team for failing to dominate possession.
Conte insisted the defender was neither injured nor left out due to any kind of row.
Asked why Rudiger had not featured at Southampton, Conte said: “It was a tactical decision.”