Chelsea moved within one point of league leaders Manchester City after a convincing win over Southampton at St Mary’s.
Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa ensured the Blues secured a fourth consecutive league win since losing to Arsenal at the end of September.
The result sees Claude Puel’s Southampton drop to ninth place in the table after suffering a first league defeat in six games.
Chelsea opened the scoring with six minutes on the clock after Hazard capped off a fine solo run with a goal. Victor Moses found the Belgian alone on the right flank before the midfielder turned past Steve Davis and smashed the ball through Fraser Forster’s legs.
The home side looked to respond immediately through Nathan Redmond and the forward almost slipped in behind the Blues defence. But Nemanja Matic proved to be too tough an obstacle to pass, as he intercepted at the pivotal moment.
Southampton found the Chelsea rear-guard increasingly difficult to pass as the first half progressed, with Matic and N’Golo Kante offering a formidable shield in front of the visitors’ defence. The Saints’ threat was limited to set-pieces, but Jose Fonte failed to direct his header on goal from Davis’ corner when given the opportunity.
Antonio Conte’s men should have doubled their lead in the closing stages of the half. Matic stole the ball off Jordy Clasie before feeding Costa with an incisive pass to split the home defence. Costa raced through on goal but he dragged his shot straight into the body of Forster to ensure Southampton only trailed by one at the break.
Chelsea started the second half with the intent of ending the game as a contest. Marcos Alonso drove up the left lank after Kante switched the play to the roaming Spanish fullback, before drilling in a dangerous low cross. Fonte, sliding towards his own goal, knew Hazard was waiting behind to tap into an empty net, managed to slice the ball wide of his own post.
But the reprieve was short-lived, as Costa bagged his side’s second with a curling effort 20-yards from goal. A quick free-kick saw Hazard carry the ball along the left flank before letting Costa take over, who took aim and found the top right corner of the net to confirm the away side’s superiority.
The visitors were in a playful mood as they searched for a third goal. After Moses was denied by Forster, Hazard teed up Costa for what should have been a simple tap-in, but the striker passed to Pedro instead, who was crowded out by the Saints defence.
Southampton nearly pulled a goal back with fifteen minutes remaining through a Davis header. Cuco Martina’s curling cross found Davis, who glanced the ball towards goal via a David Luizdeflection, but the effort sailed just over before hitting the top of Thibaut Courtois’ crossbar.
The impressive Moses nearly got his name on the scoresheet with less than 10 minutes remaining. Costa’s pass found Moses before the Nigerian used his teammate Willian as a distraction to cut in off the right flank. But the makeshift fullback’s powerful shot was parried away by Forster in goal.
Charlie Austin was denied a late consolation goal for the hosts when he was deemed to be offside after robbing Luiz of possession. It proved to be the correct decision as Chelsea capped off a fine away performance with a clean sheet.