SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – Chelsea’s stuttering start to the season continued as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Southampton on Tuesday despite Raheem Sterling giving them an early lead.
Sterling struck in the 23rd minute with his third goal in two games but Chelsea’s lead was shortlived.
Romeo Lavia levelled five minutes later with a thumping finish from outside the area.
Adam Armstrong then turned the match on its head in first-half stoppage time — finishing superbly to round off a slick passing move by the hosts.
Chelsea, beaten at Leeds United in their previous away game, were unable to make much impression on a tireless Saints side in the second half despite plenty of possession.
Southampton’s win moved them to seven points from five games, the same total as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.
“We knew it would be a tough night tonight. Chelsea are a tough opposition but the lads dug deep,” Armstrong said.
“Nights like this we won’t forget. It was frustrating on Saturday (against Manchester United), we had a few chances. That is football. We dug deep tonight.”
Chelsea actually started well and took the lead when Kai Havertz played in Mason Mount who crossed low for Sterling whose initial effort was blocked.
But the former Manchester City forward gathered the loose ball with his back to goal and cleverly worked some space before slotting the ball past Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu.
Undeterred, Southampton quickly got on the front foot and when a ball was cleared out to Lavia, he took a touch before belting a shot past Edoaurd Mendy.
Southampton went ahead with a silky move that saw James Ward-Prowse link up with Romain Perraud who played a pass in towards Armstrong who had dropped into space.
His powerful shot took a touch off Kalidou Koulibaly before flying high past Mendy.
Southampton’s intensity after the break restricted Chelsea’s chances and there were loud celebrations at the final whistle.
Defeat left Tuchel with plenty to think about with Chelsea already slipping off the pace.
“We started well in all the games almost but obviously we are struggling with our focus and consistency in matches,” the German said. “We struggled to find answers and find the way back if things don’t go in our direction.”
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)