Jannik Vestergaard headed in a dramatic injury-time equaliser as Southampton pegged back Chelsea to claim a point in a Premier League thriller at Stamford Bridge.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side looked to be heading for defeat but Danish defender Vestergaard was in the right place to flick home a Theo Walcott shot from the edge of the area.
Chelsea were in control at 2-0 up through two superb Timo Werner goals – the first courtesy of a sublime dummy which bamboozled Jan Bednarek before drilling in, and the second as he lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and nodded home.
When it looked like the hosts were cruising, Southampton hit back as Danny Ings went round keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to finish and Che Adams punished dire Chelsea defending to smash home an equaliser.
The Blues responded just 121 seconds later with Werner sliding the ball across the box for compatriot Kai Havertz to convert an easy finish which seemed to be the winner, but Vestergaard’s late effort sealed a draw.
Chelsea’s defensive frailties prove costly
Despite a top-four finish last season, the problems for Frank Lampard’s side were obvious – weak at the back, they paid a heavy price for their frailties against Southampton.
Chelsea conceded 54 goals last term, more than any other team that finished in the top 10, but a heavy spending spree in the summer invested more in attacking additions than defensive reinforcements.
The experienced Thiago Silva, brought in on a free after leaving Paris St-Germain, missed out and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy suffered an injury on international duty with Senegal.
It meant the error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga was back in goal and his contribution for Southampton’s second goal was far from impressive, but he could do nothing about their equaliser.
The home side failed to capitalise on champions Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Everton earlier on Saturday, with them missing out on the chance to go second and instead staying sixth.
But while they work on resolving their backline problems, they will have no problems going forward with the fire power they possess.
Prolific striker Werner looked like heading to champions Liverpool but the transfer did not materialise and he showcased why Chelsea were quick to pay £54m for the RB Leipzig man.
Werner, who scored 34 goals last season, was a constant menace for the Saints backline, his low centre of gravity allowing him to shift left and right, bringing about the first goal.
He had his back to goal a long way, but his step-over and dart left Bednarek trailing and, despite having work to do with three defenders and the goalkeeper in attendance, Werner slipped a cool finish into the bottom corner.
Werner caused problems for the same defender for the second goal, holding off the towering Bednarek from Jorginho’s raking pass, calmly lofting the ball over the advancing McCarthy and heading in from close range.
Chelsea’s dangerous trio of attackers combined for the third as Christian Pulisic found Werner’s run into the box and he moved it on for Havertz’s first league goal.
With Hakim Ziyech making his debut off the bench in the final 18 minutes, as well as the options of Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi available to Lampard, Chelsea will not have problems scoring goals.
It is at the back where they remain most vulnerable.
Walcott sends reminder of talents
Southampton started the season poorly with back-to-back defeats but have responded in excellent fashion by picking up two victories and a draw.
They were outplayed for large parts by Chelsea’s vibrant offence but Hasenhuttl will be delighted with them maintaining their unbeaten run so late in the day.
The visitors punished Chelsea’s individual errors for their first two goals, Adams picking off Havertz in the final third, slotting the ball through to partner Ings to finish.
And it was Adams’ industry which saw him net, harrying Kurt Zouma into a backpass which sold Arrizabalaga short, though the goalkeeper should have done better to clear it, allowing the Southampton striker to keep the ball in play and smash into the net.
Meanwhile, Walcott, who was the club’s youngest first-team player at 16 years old, returned to Southampton on loan from Everton, 14 years after leaving to join Arsenal.
The former England international faded at the Toffees and was anonymous for much of this contest, but sprang to life in the second half to remind people what he is still capable of.
The 31-year-old burst forward with pace and laid the ball off for Adams, who drilled wide and it was his pass to Ings which forced Arrizabalaga into a good save.
Walcott stayed alert in the 92nd minute, drilling a half-cleared corner back into the danger zone for Vestergaard to stoop and earn a draw.
Chelsea open their Champions League campaign against Sevilla on Tuesday (kick-off 20:00 BST), while Southampton are in action again in the league next Sunday against Everton (14:00).
Chelsea defence gets the Blues – the stats
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last nine home Premier League games (W7 D1), after losing four of the seven before that (W2 D1).
- Southampton have lost just one of their last eight away Premier League games (W4 D3) after losing two in a row directly before that in February.
- Chelsea have conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game in the Premier League under Frank Lampard (63 in 43 games), the Blues’ worst rate under any boss to oversee more than one game in the competition.
- Since the start of last season, only Robert Lewandowski, Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more goals in Europe’s top five leagues than Timo Werner (30), with today’s strikes the German’s first two league goals for Chelsea.
- Timo Werner and Kai Havertz became the fifth and sixth Germans to score for Chelsea in the Premier League, a joint-high along with Arsenal and Manchester City (six each).
- Since the start of last season, only Jamie Vardy (28) has scored more Premier League goals than Southampton striker Danny Ings (26).
- Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell has been directly involved in four goals in the Premier League against Southampton (one goal, three assists), his best return against any side in the competition.
- Southampton’s Che Adams scored and assisted in the same game for the first time since October 2018 for Birmingham against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
- Theo Walcott made his first appearance for Southampton in 14 years and 276 days, when he played against QPR in the Championship in January 2006.
- 21ChilwellBooked at 48mins
- 10PulisicSubstituted forJamesat 87′minutes
- 19MountSubstituted forZiyechat 72′minutes
- 11WernerSubstituted forAbrahamat 90′minutes
- 6RomeuBooked at 84minsSubstituted forDialloat 87′minutes
- 11RedmondSubstituted forTellaat 77′minutes
- 10AdamsSubstituted forLongat 86′minutes
Match ends, Chelsea 3, Southampton 3.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 3, Southampton 3.
Attempt missed. Theo Walcott (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ibrahima Diallo.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Kurt Zouma.
Goal! Chelsea 3, Southampton 3. Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Theo Walcott following a set piece situation.
Attempt missed. Theo Walcott (Southampton) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Foul by Reece James (Chelsea).
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Chelsea. Tammy Abraham replaces Timo Werner.
Foul by Kurt Zouma (Chelsea).
Shane Long (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Chelsea. Reece James replaces Christian Pulisic.
Substitution, Southampton. Ibrahima Diallo replaces Oriol Romeu.
Substitution, Southampton. Shane Long replaces Che Adams.
Kai Havertz (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ryan Bertrand (Southampton).
Oriol Romeu (Southampton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Oriol Romeu (Southampton).
Attempt saved. Danny Ings (Southampton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Theo Walcott.