Jose Mourinho was happy with the character his side demonstrated by coming from behind to beat Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and keep pace with Premier League leaders Arsenal.
It was an important victory for Chelsea after the Gunners beat Cardiff City on Saturday and although Mourinho played down the Blues’ title ambitions, he said that they cannot afford to fall too far behind Arsene Wenger’s side and the chasing pack.
Jay Rodriguez shocked the home support on Sunday when he capitalised on Michael Essien’s error to give the Saints the lead in the opening minute of the match but Mourinho appreciated the maturity his players showed by not panicking and taking any further damage in the first half before dishing out some of their own after the break.
“The goal was like a knife in our back; by surprise you are losing 1-0.
“(But) in the first half we played very well. We played with balance, we played calm, no panic, no silly decisions, no mistakes, not going from 1-0 to 2-0, not risking a lot. That was a sign of maturity.
“We deserved the three points in a match which was a must-win for us. We knew that three title contenders lost points before us, so it was important for us to win this game.”
Ten minutes into the second half Gary Cahill equalised with an improvised header before John Terry nodded in Juan Mata’s cross several minutes later. Aside from the early goal Mauricio Pochettino’s side didn’t have enough to hurt Chelsea and rarely tested Petr Cech’s goal. Demba Ba wrapped up the scoring in what proved to be a well earned victory for the Blues in the end.
Mourinho’s side have not played their best football yet and despite not getting out of first gear they are only four points behind Arsenal and looking healthy in call the cups.
He clearly doesn’t want to jump the gun or put any additional pressure on his squad as he stated that he isn’t setting any targets but Mourinho wants his side to be in the best position possible to challenge for the title
The 50-year-old said:
“They must feel the responsibility to play for Chelsea.
“Feeling that Chelsea cannot be in December – like it happened in a few seasons – completely out of the title race.
“I can’t establish targets. I can’t say ‘now I want to win five consecutive matches, now I want to be top of the league’.
“One of the things these boys have to learn is to cope with the responsibility of being there. We cannot be 15 points behind by December, we have to be there.”
Chelsea have three Premier League fixtures against Sunderland, Stoke City and Crystal Palace before they come face-to-face at the Emirates Stadium on December 23rd.
“Now we have two matches away, after that we play Crystal Palace at home.
“We are playing against three teams, they need points, because of the position they have, so we are going to have very difficult matches.”
There is a long way to go in the title race and you would think Manchester City probably pose the biggest threat if they could just address their form away from home but you wouldn’t bet against a Mourinho side being in the chase.