Rafael Benitez bemoaned Chelsea’s poor finishing after his side surrendered a lead to draw at home with Southampton.
First-half goals from January signing Demba Ba and Eden Hazard had put the Blues firmly in control, but strikes from substitute Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon after the break ensured the spoils were shared – a result which leaves Chelsea 13 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United.
The result keeps the west Londoners winless at home in 2013 and leaves their already unlikely title hopes in tatters, and Benitez believes a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal was to blame.
“We have to be more clinical,” the Spaniard told reporters.
“We had situations where we could score and we didn’t.
“I was telling the team at half-time ‘We have to score the third goal’, but we didn’t take the chances we had.
“In the second half we didn’t manage the game, we didn’t take our chances and we gave them hope that they could score, and they did.”
Fernando Torres’ arrival with 10 minutes to go was once again greeted with a mixture of indifference and hostility at Stamford Bridge, but Benitez insists the atmosphere is not affecting his 50-million-pound man.
“Torres is professional, he is concentrated, and he tries to do his best,” he added.
“At 2-0 up, it’s a question of experience and managing the game. We just had to stay compact, and then they would come and we would get more space.
“We were talking about the need to stop them making counterattacks but they did it, so obviously we made a mistake there.
“We have to defend as a unit a little bit better, especially when we’re winning. We have to improve.”
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins hailed his side’s battling qualities after they came from two goals down at Stamford Bridge.
But Adkins also felt his side had followed their instructions almost to the letter in securing an unlikely draw.
“We came here with a game plan,” he told Sky Sports.
“Obviously Chelsea are a good side and if you give them space they’re going to hurt you.
“So we came here to put a block in and to try to intercept and then go on and counter-attack.
“The two goals we conceded – we could have cleared them a little bit better in the penalty area and the one just before half time could have been a big sucker punch.
“But it was great character from the players – to come out in the second half and stick to that gameplan – and great impact (from the substitutes) coming off the bench and to go and claw two goals back.”
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