Jan 16 2013 By Yann Tear
Chelsea 2-2 Southampton
DEMBA BA bagged his first goal at Stamford Bridge in a Chelsea shirt, but the Blues frittered away a two goal half-time lead – missing the chance to apply a little pressure on the Manchester clubs.
It means they have not won any of their three home matches in 2013 and the 8-0 rout of Aston Villa seems a long time ago.
The Senegal striker produced a typically athletic finish on 25 minutes to point Chelsea in the right direction – ending the team's mini home drought of two games without a goal.
And when Eden Hazard doubled the lead before the break, a routine home win looked a near certainty.
But Southampton had other ideas. They may have started with Rickie Lambert on the bench, looking in damage limitation mode at the outset, but the introduction of their top striker quickly altered the landscape.
Just three minutes after coming on at the start of the second half, Lambert was there to head in a fine cross from Nathaniel Clyne and suddenly the visitors believed.
And on 75 minutes, Jason Puncheon equalised with a peach of a volley beyond Petr Cech, after flicking the ball up for the strike.
The ball reached him after Luke Shaw's lung-bursting run past Cesar Azpilicueta down the left flank, which culminated in a great ball across the18-yard line to the goalscorer.
On came Fernando Torres to accompany Ba up front as Chelsea went 4-4-2 for the last 10 minutes. But the damage had been done.
It was only logical that Ba should be given his first home start against the Saints, given that he netted twice against them in an FA Cup debut for the Blues at St Mary's a couple of weeks ago.
The Blues had been purposeful but unthreatening until Azpilucueta – fed by Frank Lampard on the byline – played in a cross that reached Ba via the head of Oscar and defender Jos Hooiveld.
Ba quickly sized up the options and executed an acrobatic volley that beat Artur Boruc with the aid of a slight deflection off Saints defender Maya Yoshida.
Once again, Torres will have suffered the unfavourable thought that it is not the sort of goal the Spaniard seems capable of these days.
Firmly in the comfort zone after breaking the deadlock and sensing the possibility of repeating the 5-1 win in that cup tie, the Blues began to flow, with Ba offering the sort of nimble touches you would normally associate with Juan Mata.
A second goal was only a matter of time and it came on the stroke of half time, when Eden Hazard reacted quickest when a Ramires shot came back off a post, and buried a left foot shot.
Ba had a chance to finish the contest at 2-1 when he skied a sublime Mata chip over the bar, leaning back as he stretched for the ball and Lampard floated a free-kick narrowly wide.
Those misses were to prove costly.
The atmosphere at the Bridge was as subdued and hushed as a village green at times - at least until the end, when Rafa Benitez was again the focus of discontent from home fans. Not all the tickets were sold for this catch-up match – held over because of Chelsea' jaunt to Japan before Christmas.
It is safe to assume it will be very different against Arsenal on Sunday. But neither side will be approaching the game truly believing they are fighting for anything more than third and fourth place.
Line up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires Lampard (Torres 80); Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Marin, Terry, Bertrand.