Southampton rescued a point in dramatic circumstances at Stamford Bridge, earning a share of the spoils after Jannik Vestergaard’s stoppage-time header capped a wonderful comeback in the second half.
A dramatic turnaround left Chelsea to reflect on their defensive failings. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz should have been the stars after scoring their first goals in the Premier League. Instead the focus lingered on Frank Lampard’s shambolic defence after Chelsea threw away a 2-0 lead and then failed to hold on to their advantage after regaining control thanks to Havertz’s goal.
The prospect of a tight contest looked unlikely when Chelsea were on top during the first half. In control from the start, there were the first glimpses of what Lampard wants from his expensively assembled attack. Havertz was the orchestrator in the No 10 role, knitting everything together with intelligent movement and slick passing. The one-touch interchanges from Chelsea were full of conviction and there were signs of new relationships forming as Havertz found space between the lines, directing play and combining with Mason Mount, whose unselfish darts inside from the left made room for Ben Chilwell to attack from full-back.
Chelsea constantly looked to release Chilwell. Southampton were slow to react to the scheme and the England left-back almost opened the scoring in the second minute, only for Alex McCarthy to repel his firm drive. The rebound fell to Havertz, who saw his volley pushed away by the Southampton goalkeeper.
Football of such beauty deserved an elite finisher to add substance to the style. Fortunately Werner relished testing the robustness of Southampton’s high line. An early warning shot underlined his menace and Southampton were relieved to see the flag go up for offside when Werner headed in a pinpoint cross from Ben Chilwell.
The same combination clicked for Chelsea’s opening goal on 15 minutes, although in reality it was all Werner’s work. Taking a straightforward pass from Chilwell, the German produced a moment of outrageous impudence, nutmegging Jan Bednarek without even touching the ball. Bednarek was left utterly befuddled by the dummy and the Southampton centre-back was unable to react as Werner raced away and zipped inside, moving on to his right foot before slamming a low finish past McCarthy.
Hasenhüttl cried, turning away in disgust after conceding to the forward he took to RB Leipzig in 2016. Yet it was a brilliant goal from Hasenhüttl’s former player and Werner doubled Chelsea’s lead with another fine effort in the 28th minute. This time Jorginho was the provider, sweeping a gorgeous pass over the top from deep, giving Werner the opportunity to race clear and punish Southampton’s uneven defending with three deft touches: one to control with his shoulder, one to lob the advancing McCarthy and one to nod into the empty net.
Chelsea were rampant, almost going three up when Kurt Zouma went close with a header from a corner. Christian Pulisic, making his first start of the season after recovering from a hamstring injury, also threatened after breaking through on the right.
Yet Southampton refused to lie down. The visitors had threatened when the game was goalless. Theo Walcott, back in Southampton colours after his loan move move from Everton, caused alarmed with a bright turn and the ball ran loose after a desperate tackle from N’Golo Kante. Kepa Arrizabalaga, restored to the side after Edouard Mendy’s thigh injury, saved well to deny Che Adams.
With Thiago Silva given a rest after his exertions for Brazil during the international break, Andreas Christensen joined Zouma in central defence for Chelsea. The partnership did not convince and Southampton pounced just before half-time, punishing a rare error from Havertz. Danny Ings was typically alert, racing through and rounding Arrizabalaga before tapping into the unguarded net to make Hasenhüttl’s half-time team-talk that little bit easier.
Chelsea were all over the place at the start of the second half. Kante and Jorghino were overrun in midfield and their loss of composure was summed up by Zouma’s failure to deal with a routine punt in the 57th minute. The centre-back’s woeful backpass let Adams in and, with Arrizabalaga too hesitant off his line, the striker eventually slammed the ball into the roof of the net.
Southampton’s rebellion roused Chelsea’s forwards. Two minutes after Adams’s messy equaliser, Pulisic shook off a couple of strong challenges and released Werner, who took the unselfish option when the hat-trick looked on, setting up Havertz for a simple finish.
Panic over? Not quite. While Chelsea brought on Hakim Ziyech for his debut, they remained too open off the ball and Southampton almost conjured another equaliser when Adams slithered a shot wide.
Chelsea were rocking. Arrizabalaga denied Ings but Southampton kept pressing. Their reward arrived when Vestergaard headed Walcott’s shot in from close range.