FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: SQUAD REWARD
Jose Mourinho hailed the efforts of his whole squad over the busy festive period following this afternoon's 3-0 victory at Southampton.
An entertaining opening first 45 ended goalless in torrid weather conditions, though both sides had chances to score. Fernando Torres, Ramires and Eden Hazard all went close for the Blues, with the Spaniard in particular posing a serious threat to the Saints' backline. At the other end, Ashley Cole was on hand twice to block superbly from Adam Lallana.
Mourinho made two changes early in the second half, bringing on Willian and Oscar, and those substitutions proved decisive as we swept the Saints away. Torres had got the goal his performance deserved with a close-range header before the Brazilian duo of Willian and Oscar got in the act, the former's strike from outside the box certainly one to savour.
The manager confirmed after the game Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard will be out until the end of the month, but this victory got the beginning of it off to a great start, and keeps us within touching distance of leaders Arsenal. Reflecting on the victory, our third in a row, Mourinho felt it was just rewards for a fine away showing.
'This period is difficult for everyone, and in our case it was very difficult because we played Arsenal, Liverpool and then Southampton away,' Mourinho said. 'We always had suspensions and injuries, so the squad was brilliant in the way they answered to our needs.'
'This match was perfect, but it was particularly difficult because you need to work a lot to play against Southampton. They play very good football, you have to be compact at the back and press the ball all the time.
'We started very well, we had some good chances but also some difficult moments when I saw my people defend the goal with everything they had. With Willian and Oscar the plan worked - sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. They came on for the last 35 minutes, as the fatigue on the pitch accumulated, and they gave a different intensity to the game. Of course it was up to their talent, and that, together with Eden, started creating a lot.
'After we scored we dominated even more and we finished the game in a comfortable way. I think we really deserved the victory.'
Mourinho was pleased another of his strikers had scored a crucial goal…
'I'm very happy with Fernando's performance. His goal completely changed the game because after that the game was in our hands. It was an important goal for him, and it was important that Samuel scored the winning goal against Liverpool too.
'If at the same time the team is improving and the young players are improving too, if at the same time the older players are showing stability in their performances and our strikers can score a few goals, that's good.'
Oscar was booked for simulation, having rounded Kelvin Davis, minutes after coming on…
'He deserved to get booked. It's strange because Oscar is a clean player, he was waiting for the keeper to come and smash him because that usually happens, but the keeper wasn't coming, he stopped. I accepted his explanation to me, Oscar found himself in a moment of contradiction in a fraction of a second. It's a fair yellow card for a clean player.'
Mourinho saw no issue with Juan Mata's reaction when he was substituted…
'I think his frustration was because of the result because we knew we had to win. If we don't win this game the difference to the leaders is bigger. When he came off the team was losing two points, so I think his frustration was about that. At the end of the game everybody, including him, was happy in the dressing room and everybody was celebrating the victory.'
The transfer window opened today…
'The window is open and when it's open anything can happen but we don't think a lot is going to happen for us. If somebody really wants to leave probably we have to bring in somebody but we are going to do things in a very calm way.
'I know what I'm building and what we are building at the club. Next summer will be a moment to make a couple of clinical buys and improve our team in that direction. We work and improve and try to bring the young players to a different level, and we are doing that quite successfully. We are not candidates to win the league, but we are always candidates to win the next match.'
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted the best side won…
'Chelsea are one of the candidates to win the league, along with Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Man United.'