And boy, are they disliked. Chelsea remain top of the pile and this point may well prove to be significant come May but the lack of warmth such a superb side generates is extraordinary.
Their penchant for diving has much to do with that. In this game Cesc Fabregas became the latest Chelsea man to be shown a yellow card for simulation. Previous indiscretions included Gary Cahill going down in the Hull box like he was impersonating Del Boy in that famous bar scene, and an unpunished one where Branislav Ivanovic toppled mysteriously against West Ham just two days before this fixture. At St Mary’s last season, Oscar, absent ill on this occasion, tried and failed to get the Saints goalkeeper sent off when scoring would have been the simpler option as well as the more sporting. Fabregas was not happy at Anthony Taylor’s interpretation of a challenge by teenager defender Matt Targett early in the second- half. “There was definitely contact,” he moaned. “The referee didn’t have the best game of his life and I don’t think he will sleep that well tonight, he had an awful game.”
The Spaniard actually had a valid point but how about the conclusion reached by Mourinho? Yes, folks, all these yellow cards are evidence of a conspiracy against Chelsea by forces un-named, at least by him.
“My view is your view, it is the view of everybody,” an animated Mourinho claimed, wading in with a huge assumption. “I think it is the result of something that looks like a campaign.
“In the first match Diego Costa got a yellow card when it should have been a red card and a penalty at Burnley. A few months later Fabregas gets a yellow card. The double punishment is unbelievable. You have a penalty and probably you win the game. You don’t get the penalty and you get a yellow card.
“We have had bad yellow cards for simulation. I am not saying all but we are speaking about crucial decisions. For example, the game against Hull City — do you think the most important thing was Cahill or Filipe Luis almost with a broken leg?”
OK, Jose, who exactly is behind it all? “I don’t know, ” he admitted. “But after the game against West Ham — a good game, a normal game — (Enner) Valencia made a very bad dive and at the end of the game Sam (Allardyce) is speaking about Ivanovic? What is this? Why?”
As for the actual football, the first half belonged to Saints, who defended in numbers when they had to, especially if Costa or Fabregas were on the ball, and took a deserved lead in the 17th minute through Saido Mane.
Targett, making his first Premier League start because loanee Ryan Bertrand could not play against his parent club, had a hand in a build-up that saw Dusan Tadic loft the ball over the Chelsea back-line, John Terry fail to spring an offside trap and the Senegal striker calmly lifting the ball beyond Thibaut Courtois.
Hazard had been only a peripheral performer but showed his class in first-half stoppage time when Fabregas gave him a ball to chase down the inside left channel. The Belgian easily shrugged off Maya Yoshida, cut inside to elude Jose Fonte and slot the ball across goalkeeper Fraser Forster and into the bottom corner.
It had been Chelsea’s one and only shot of the half and ended up nestling in the back of the net. It turned out to be their only one on target — and the same applied to Mane’s for his side.
Chelsea dominated the second period and hardly allowed Saints a sniff of an attack, with the home side’s defending even more impressive. Apart from the moment substitute James Ward-Prowse inexplicably gave the ball to Costa in the Southampton penalty area and was relieved to see the Spain striker slip instead of stroll away and score.
The home side saw out the closing stages a man down after Morgan Schneiderlin, having been booked for persistently fouling Hazard, took one for the team by taking out Fabregas to snuff out a counter attack.
“One point against Chelsea is maybe three points against another opponent,” said Saints coach Ronald Koeman. “I’m proud of the players, the organisation and spirit in the team. There were some moments when we were a little bit lucky but if you don’t have luck against these kinds of teams it’s impossible to have a positive result.”
SOUTHAMPTON (4-3-3): Forster 6; Yoshida 6 (Gardos 62, 6), Fonte 7, Alderweireld 7, Targett 7; S Davis 6 (Long 77), Schneiderlin 7, Wanyama 7; Mane 7, Pelle 6, Tadic 7 Ward-Prowse 58, 6).
CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Courtois 6; Ivanovic 6, Cahill 7, Terry 6, Luis 7; Matic 7, Mikel 6 (Drogba 74, 6); Schurrle 5 (Willian 46, 6), Fabregas 7, Hazard 7; Costa 6 (Remy 89).
Referee: A Taylor 6.