Football: Oscar cameo enables Chelsea to stay in touch

Football: Oscar cameo enables Chelsea to stay in touch
Chelsea's Gary Cahill (L) is challenged by Southampton's Rickie Lambert during their English Premier League soccer match

SOUTHAMPTON - Chelsea recorded a third straight Premier League victory as second-half goals from Fernando Torres and substitutes Willian and Oscar earned a 3-0 New Year's Day win at Southampton.

Jose Mourinho's side remain in third place in the table after the game at St Mary's Stadium, a point behind Manchester City and two adrift of leaders Arsenal.

Chelsea made six changes from the side that beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday, with Torres replacing Samuel Eto'o as the lone striker and Juan Mata and Andre Schuerrle included in an attacking midfield three.

Southampton, who won this fixture 2-1 last season and were beaten 3-1 at Stamford Bridge exactly a month ago, made two changes by bringing back Morgan Schneiderlin and Gaston Ramirez.

Ramirez gave the ball away cheaply early on to give Torres a sight of goal, but Jose Fonte did well to slide in and deflect the resulting shot behind.

Schuerrle then sent a low drive just wide from the corner, which saw Dejan Lovren accidentally hit in the face by team-mate Fonte in an incident that left the Croatia international requiring lengthy treatment.

Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis made a good save to deny Ramires, who had won the chase to latch onto a Torres through ball.

Southampton's first chance fell to Adam Lallana, but Ashley Cole - back in the side because of injury to Branislav Ivanovic - did well to block as torrential rain continued to fall on the St Mary's pitch.

Torres was looking lively and cut inside from the left to beat two challenges before firing just over.

Southampton had a strong wind behind them, however, and that allowed Jay Rodriguez to get behind the Chelsea back-line, only for Cole to dispossess him at the last moment.

Lallana saw another good chance blocked by a defender, but Chelsea remained dangerous on the counter-attack and Davis did well to tip over a fierce drive from Ramires before Lovren headed away a Schuerrle effort.

Southampton began the second period strongly, with Fonte, Lovren and Rodriguez all seeing shots blocked in the space of a few frantic seconds and the half was just eight minutes old when Mata and Schuerrle were replaced by Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian.

Within seconds, Eden Hazard had sent Oscar clear and the Brazilian took the ball round Davis before going down as the goalkeeper challenged.

Referee Martin Atkinson was quick to make a decision, and booked the Chelsea man for diving.

A goal was coming, however, and Torres was the man who netted it in the 60th minute.

Oscar's cross was deflected onto the far post off Calum Chambers and the Spain striker headed home the rebound from close range.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had to be alert to get behind a close-range header from substitute Rickie Lambert, but the visitors' reply was a clinching second in the 71st minute from Willian, who took a touch from Oscar's pass before bending a low shot past Davis.

Oscar made the margin of victory even more emphatic with an 82nd-minute third. Hazard's perfect first-time pass put the substitute clear and he had no difficulty firing past Davis.

Southampton were left deflated after that and Chelsea were able to negotiate the rest of the game with little alarm, apart from a Ramirez effort in stoppage time that flew just wide.

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