Southampton battled hard against Chelsea on Saturday but the eventual 3-1 scoreline in favour of Thomas Tuchel’s Blues made the win look much more routine than it actually was.
Saints responded from a first-half where they were second-best and a goal down and levelled things up just after the hour-mark when James Ward-Prowse dispatched from the penalty spot.
Momentum was certainly going with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side at that stage and they would have fancied themselves to claim a good point had they ended the game without any further drama.
As it was though, the normally reliable Ward-Prowse had perhaps the only moment of madness that he will have this season and got himself sent off – handing the initiative back to Chelsea in the latter stages, with which they took full advantage.
Needless challenge from Southampton captain Ward-Prowse costs his side
With around 15 minutes left to play, Saints were in a strong position and had Chelsea penned in their own penalty area with a goal kick. This is an ideal situation when playing Ralph Hasenhuttl’s pressing football and could have seen the ball won in a very promising position had Ward-Prowse kept his cool along with his teammates.
As it was, he planted a needless challenge on the achilles of home midfielder Jorginho and gave referee Martin Atkinson a decision to make after making use of the VAR technology. It seemed an honest attempt to win the ball from the Saints captain but he could have really stayed on his feet and forced his opponent to play a risky pass near his own goal, not given Chelsea an easy way out.
The level of control that Saints had was then lost without their midfield leader and they lost as a result. Ward-Prowse will also be missing for three games, meaning that others will be pushed to the front of the queue to take responsibility.
At this time, Saints really cannot do without Ward-Prowse and he should have realised that at a crucial time on Saturday afternoon. He showed reliability from the penalty spot and has shown this quality during much of the last two years, but clearly lost his head here to the cost of the team.