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Pass-by-pass: Breaking down Chelsea’s 31-pass move for Morata’s goal against Southampton

Highest number of passes made in the build-up to a goal in the Premier League this season

Chelsea scored a great goal in added-on time against Southampton at St Mary’s, lathering on a layer of most sweet icing on top of an already pretty sweet cake.

Here’s what happened in the 70 seconds before Morata’s delightful chipped finish over the goalkeeper to set the final 3-0 scoreline.

PASS #1: David Luiz to Jorginho

The move actually begins with a long-ball forward from Southampton, which Marcos Alonso defends decently enough to give an opportunity for the covering defender to clean things up. That defender is David Luiz, who takes a touch forward, rides a dangling leg from Shane Long and passes forward to Jorginho.

PASS #2: Jorginho to Álvaro Morata

Jorginho turns but doesn’t have much time with Danny Ings closing him down from behind and Cédric Soares closing down from the front. Since Cédric is supposed to be the right back, Jorginho chips the ball over him into the space that he vacated. There the ball finds Morata dropping back and eager to run and impress even in the 92nd minute, and playing with renewed confidence from Thursday’s goal.

PASS #3: Morata to Eden Hazard

Morata collects the ball in acres of space and powers forward about 10 yards before anyone is even near him, then passes forward another 10 yards to Hazard who’s moving center-out. Morata continues his run to the inside, though no one really follows him, until he’s square with Hazard.

PASSES #4-6: Hazard to Jorginho to Hazard to César Azpilicueta

Despite being a long ways from goal, Hazard has center back Maya Yoshida draped all over him. With Chelsea up two already and halfway through four minutes of added-on time, Hazard doesn’t force the issue down the line and instead turns back inside. Southampton, relieved that the immediate danger is gone, concentrate on recovering their shape and Hazard floats free. He exchanges short passes with Jorginho before switching to the right for Azpilicueta.

PASS #7: Azpilicueta to Pedro

Hazard’s pass out wide isn’t all that great. It’s loops too high, it’s slow, and Azpi has to wait for it to bounce first. That allows Nathan Redmond to recover and cut off any easy advancement up the line. Fortunately, Pedro’s hustling to provide support and he gets the layoff.

PASS #8: Pedro to Antonio Rüdiger

Pedro is already moving backwards when he gets on the ball and with Højbjerg following close behind, he continues to move in the direction he’s facing. Before this turns into one of those around-the-world Pedro end-run specials, he passes to Rüdiger, providing support deep and on the inside. Chelsea have now lost all the progress made by Morata on the left, but have retained possession and can start again.

PASS #9: Rüdiger to Jorginho

Here’s Jorginho again. One touch to receive the ball. Turns. Second touch (SPOILER ALERT), gets rid of it.

PASS #10: Jorginho to N’Golo Kanté

Jorginho turns upfield and swiftly gets Chelsea into the attack. Kanté had been constantly moving throughout the previous nine passes and now he gets to be involved as he finds himself in space between the lines. The speed with which the ball moves from Rüdiger to Kanté via Jorginho is excellent, especially considering the comfortable scoreline and the clock ticking away in the 92nd minute.

PASSES #11-12: Kanté to Hazard to Marcos Alonso

Kanté receives, turns in acres of space, and runs at the backline. Chelsea suddenly have a 5-v-4, including Marcos Alonso steaming up the left channel, all alone on that side of the pitch. The two players in the middle of the pitch for Southampton are Cédric (No.2) and Mario Lemina (No.18), the right back and the right midfielder, respectively.

PASS #13: Alonso to Mateo Kovačić

Alonso gets lucky here with pass No.13 and not just because of Opta’s generosity in continuing to count it as the same build-up despite him taking a shot. The shot is blocked by tremendous effort from a knackered, sliding, despairing Lemina, but the rebound goes straight back to Alonso who backs out and finds Kovačić who had moved up with the play in support.

PASS #14: Kovačić to Hazard

With no pressure on him whatsoever (Lemina stays in the backline to try to catch his breath) Kovačić steps around the ball to face back inside. He spots Hazard in the middle, 5-6 yards outside the area, and free to receive.

PASS #15: Hazard to Alonso

Hazard is closed down well by Oriol Romeu, and he’s suddenly faced by three defenders (Cedric, Lemina, Romeu). The safety valve is Alonso out wide left. Hazard does jog after his own pass as well, losing his markers in the process.

PASSES #16-19: Alonso to Kovačić to Pedro to Kovačić to Hazard

Now halfway through the sequence, the olés begin. As Hazard reaches Alonso (still with the ball) Alonso gives it Kovačić, then runs into the middle where Hazard came from, dragging Cedric with him momentarily and leaving Hazard unmarked. Meanwhile, Kovačić plays a 1-2 with Pedro, then gives it back to Hazard

PASSES #20-21: Hazard to Kovačić to David Luiz

Hazard then gives it back to Kovačić, who gets tired of this silly sequence and boots it to David Luiz all the way back on the halfway line. Reset number two. It will be the last reset.

PASS #22: David Luiz to Pedro

This time it’s Pedro who drops back to receive the ball from David Luiz, then turns upfield, beginning the third probe.

PASSES #23-27: Pedro to Kovačić to Alonso to Pedro to Kovačić to Pedro

Pedro, Kovačić, and Alonso play a little triangle around poor old Oriol Romeu. Kovačić does entice Lemina to step back out of the backline, which turns out to be important in a minute as he leaves a nice gap between Cédric and Yoshida.

PASS #28: Pedro to Hazard

Pedro skips Kovačić with the return pass and goes all the way out to Hazard on the touchline. Hazard briefly puts his foot on the ball, drawing in both Lemina and Cédric and leaving acres of space for Alonso, who’s free to run off the shoulder of the ball-watching Romeu.

PASSES #29-30: Hazard to Alonso to Hazard

And then things happen very quickly. Hazard splits Lemina and Cédric, first with a pass to Alonso, then with his run. Yoshida steps out to confront Alonso, but Hazard is already past his two markers and gets the easy return ball from Alonso

PASS #31: Hazard to Morata

With Yoshida out of position, Hoedt has to step to Hazard to try to stop him, but he’s easily bypassed with the final pass of the sequence. Morata had run behind him and finishes with aplomb, giving Hazard the assist.


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