April 14, 2018 / 4:31 PM / 7 months ago

Soccer-Chelsea comeback increases Saints' fears of drop as rivals win

April 14 (Reuters) - Chelsea scored three time in nine frenetic second-half minutes to win 3-2 at Southampton who are now five points from Premier League safety after relegation rivals Crystal Palace beat Brighton & Hove Albion by the same score at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

With Huddersfield winning 1-0 against Watford and 17th-placed Swansea drawing 1-1 with Everton, the Saints are in real danger of losing their five-year Premier League status. If they do, they will rue Saturday’s game at St Mary’s in which they were coasting at 2-0 until Olivier Giroud came on as a 61st-minute substitute.

First, Giroud expertly met a cross from Marcos Alonso, who was lucky to be on the pitch after stamping on Shane Long in the first half, and then he fired in a low shot for his first league goals for Chelsea. In between, Eden Hazard scored from close range as Southampton conceded three goals for the fourth successive game.

“As has been the case all year, apparently we’ve got a soft underbelly,” said Saints manager Mark Hughes, who is in danger of suffering his first-ever managerial relegation. “When the momentum shifts against us we can’t get a platform and wait until the momentum swings our way again.”

The action was just as furious at Selhurst Park with all the goals coming in the opening 34 minutes. Wilfried Zaha scored his first-ever league double as Palace twice took a two-goal lead but each time Brighton, who had previously scored only seven times away all season, narrowed the difference through former Palace favourite Glenn Murray and a sublime finish from Jose Izquierdo.

The win left Palace in 16th place, six points clear of Southampton.

Huddersfield’s win came in injury time via a Tom Ince shot, a goal that sparked wild celebrations among the players and home fans.

Huddersfield rise to 14th with 35 points, which may already be enough for safety although their difficult run-in pits them against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their final three games.

Jordan Ayew returned from a three-match ban to put Swansea level at Everton who had been gifted the lead through a Kyle Naughton own goal. Although Seamus Coleman hit the bar for Everton late on, the visitors again failed to impress and some fans chanted for manager Sam Allardyce to be sacked even though their side sit comfortably in ninth place.

Burnley earned their fifth straight league win with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Turf Moor to boost their chances of possible Europa League qualification. (Editing by Clare Fallon)

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