Chelsea 1-1 Southampton

FA Carling Premiership

Chelsea were forced to rely on Southampton defender Dean Richards to spare their blushes yet they lost ground in the battle for a Champions League berth with Liverpools late winner leaving Chelsea four points off third place.

Meanwhile, Glenn Hoddle will look back upon this as a happy return to the club he helped make a major Premiership force. Southampton pulled another point clear of the relegation zone.

As has often been the case this season, Chelsea dominated possession but lacked the end product and were left to pay for their profligacy and the Saints took the lead after 69 minutes when Chris Marsden dispossessed Chris Sutton. Marsden found Kachloul, who passed to Wayne Bridge and then Joe Tessem, who looked up, with time and space, and unleashed a drive from over 20 yards out to beat De Goey.

But Richards played the classic hero turned villain role with a 75th minute own goal to hand the initiative back to Chelsea. Dennis Wises high ball was met by the Richards who, despite being under no pressure, beat Jones with a looping header.

Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli made six changes from the side that lost to Lazio on Wednesday with George Weah returning from injury to partner Sutton with Gianfranco Zola playing just behind the front two, emphasising the need for his team to take all three points and stay in the hunt for a Champions League place. Anything less than that would have to be considered as failure when you can afford to leave Tore Andre Flo, Gustavo Poyet and Didier Deschamps out of your team.

That seems a long time away from when Hoddle was in the hotseat at Stamford Bridge and Sky Sports pundit Alan Mullery was justified in saying that the Chelsea supporters were going to expect nothing less than a comfortable victory. Even more so considering their opponents had a record of seven defeats from their last eight matches away from The Dell.

Yet it was central defender Emerson Thome who came closest to opening the scoring when he beat Saints 'keeper Paul Jones with a powerful header but his effort hit the bar.

To Southamptons credit, the pace of Marian Pahars and Hassan Kachloul, who curled a free kick just over the bar, gave the Chelsea defence plenty to think about. But Chelsea continued to carve open the best chances and Sutton had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Dermot Gallagher after defender Richards appeared to push the striker as they jumped to meet a cross by Zola.

Suttons misery was complete when he missed the ball from two yards out, attempting a back flick, following Albert Ferrer's cross. It just about summed up the 10 million strikers season so far and he was later substituted.

Richards was in the thick of it again when he volleyed a Zola free-kick off the line. Following a foul on the impressive Jody Morris away from goal, Zolas strike beat the wall, and the keeper, but not the defender who would have earned a man of the match honour but for his later efforts to help Chelsea's cause.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Thome, Harley, Petrescu, Wise, Morris, Zola (Ambrosetti 86), Sutton (Poyet 74), Weah.
Subs Not Used: Hogh, Di Matteo, Cudicini.
Goals: Richards 75 og.

Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Richards, El Khalej, Bridge, Tessem, Marsden, Oakley, Pahars, Kachloul, Davies.
Subs Not Used: Lundekvam, Le Tissier, Moss, Benali, Soltvedt.
Goals: Tessem 69.

Att: 34,956
Ref: D Gallagher (Banbury).