Football: Lampard blames home pressure after 2-0 loss to Southampton

Lampard watches from the touchline during the match. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AP) - Playing at home is giving Chelsea the blues.

Coach Frank Lampard blamed the pressure of expectation at Stamford Bridge for inhibiting his players after a 2-0 home defeat against Southampton on Thursday (Dec 26).

Chelsea had not lost consecutive league games at home since 2011.

"We have to mix up our game and break defensive lines, because teams aren't stupid," Lampard said.

"You can't have near on 70 per cent possession and not do more, not hit better crosses and final passes and create more shots on goal."

The defeat to Southampton - a modest side who only two months ago lost at home to Leicester 9-0 - was a sixth at home for Chelsea in 15 games overall.

"If you're on a run like we are at home then there's more pressure, because everyone talks about it and we feel it," Lampard said.

"People are respecting us as Chelsea, but we're not playing like Chelsea."

By contrast, it was a second consecutive away win for coach Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton, and his selection of Michael Obafemi ahead of striker Danny Ings paid off in spectacular style in the 31st minute.

Collecting a pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg some 30m out with his back to goal towards the right of the penalty area, Obafemi turned in one smooth motion, dropped his shoulder as he shifted onto his left foot, and curled the ball into the top left corner.

Midfielder Nathan Redmond finished off a fine team move in the 73rd as Southampton continued their revival under Hasenhuttl.

Hasenhuttl jumped off the bench and clenched his fist at the final whistle, before turning to quickly hug Lampard.

Earlier, he had not been able to contain his exuberance after Obafemi's goal, sprinting out of his technical area to celebrate it wildly.

"I was so happy, it was a fantastic goal for Michael. For us all it was a fantastic day," he said. "We've bounced back to our philosophy, in how to be brave and how to defend as a team. It's about showing more responsibility for each player; being much more committed and much more aggressive."

Lampard's first season in charge of Chelsea, the London club where he made his name as one of the best goal-scoring midfielders to grace the league, is proving a frustrating one.

Only four days ago, his tactics and his players were hailed when he outwitted his former coach Jose Mourinho as Chelsea won at Tottenham 2-0.

"We were the greatest thing in the world, they were the greatest players and I was a great manager and today it's questioned," he said. "That's when you see the strength of character of someone, I would say."

Chelsea remained in fourth spot after a seventh league defeat and were only three points ahead of Tottenham, who earlier rallied to beat Brighton 2-1.

The back-to-back home defeats are particularly concerning for Lampard's side, since they are against sides in the bottom half of the table - with struggling Bournemouth stunning Chelsea 1-0 on Dec 14.

"I learn about the players, particularly in games like that I suppose," Lampard said. "Games that turn out to be difficult are a test of character as much as they are quality. They are a test of both."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.