Southampton 0-3 Chelsea
Chelsea's Premier League title challenge continued to gather momentum ominously as they cruised to victory at Southampton.
Southampton, now with only one win in nine games, kept Chelsea at bay until manager Jose Mourinho introduced Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian early in the second half to give his side an extra cutting edge.
And how perfectly the move worked as they made crucial contributions to give Chelsea 10 points out of 12 over the festive period, in what was eventually a comfortable win that keeps them only two points behind leaders Arsenal.
Fernando Torres, a threat throughout, headed Chelsea in front on the hour after Oscar had struck the post. Oscar then set up a superb second for Willian 11 minutes later before racing clear to put the finishing touches to a display that combined quality and efficiency.
The only blot was a booking for Oscar as he dived when he should have scored after rounding Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis, otherwise he produced a wonderful display.
Mourinho reintroduced Juan Mata into Chelsea's line-up - but it was fellow countryman Torres who posed all the early threat to Southampton.
Torres caused problems with his pace and was almost on target early on only for Jose Fonte to get a crucial touch on to his shot from edge of the area and deflect it just wide.
And as Chelsea applied early pressure, Andre Schurrle shot just wide from the edge of the area after Southampton could only partially clear a corner.
Ramires was also a danger with his runs from deep, forcing Davis to race out of his goal to clear at his feet and also touch a powerful, rising drive over the top.
Southampton, however, were making opportunities of their own and occasionally forced Chelsea's defence into some desperate work to ensure they remained on level terms.
Ashley Cole, back in the starting line-up after coming on as a substitute in the win against Liverpool, twice had to show his experience and quality with crucial interceptions, while a combination of defenders was required to stop Adam Lallana after he had been set up by Calum Chambers.
Saints' talented young defender Luke Shaw went off injured at half-time, to be replaced by Nathaniel Clyne - and Mourinho was making a double change of his own just eight minutes after the break.
Oscar and Willian came on for a dejected-looking Mata and Schurrle as Chelsea went in pursuit of the crucial opening goal.
The first action involving Oscar was contentious, seemingly choosing to go to ground instead of score as he rounded Davis, picking up a booking from referee Martin Atkinson.
Oscar made a more constructive contribution as Chelsea went ahead on the hour. His effort came back off the post and Torres demonstrated swift reactions to direct the rebound into the net.
The goal was the signal for Pocchetino to bring on Rickie Lambert and he almost made an instant impact, taking advantage of confusion in Chelsea's defence but only heading straight at Petr Cech.
Oscar may have blotted his copybook to get a booking but he was once again the creator as Chelsea extended their lead, showing brilliant footwork before setting up Willian to score with a thumping low drive from the edge of the area.
And he got the goal he deserved to wrap up the three points, taking Eden Hazard's perfect pass to beat Davis with ease.
For a gallery of images from Saturday's Premier League games go to the BBC Sport Facebook page.
- 23ShawSubstituted forClyneat 45'minutesBooked at 86mins
- 5LovrenBooked at 63mins
- 18CorkBooked at 52minsSubstituted forLambertat 60'minutes
- 8DavisSubstituted forWard-Prowseat 76'minutes
- 10RamírezBooked at 46mins
- 10MataSubstituted forOscarat 53'minutesBooked at 55mins
- 17HazardSubstituted forEssienat 85'minutes
- 14SchürrleSubstituted forWillianat 53'minutes
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target