Southampton boss Claude Puel believes the timing of Chelsea’s first goal at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday proved pivotal in their 2-0 victory.
Eden Hazard opened the scoring in the sixth minute, firing low between the legs of goalkeeper Fraser Forster to give Antonio Conte’s side early control.
Diego Costa added a superb second 10 minutes after half-time to secure Chelsea’s fourth Premier League win in a row and move them to within a point of leaders Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho said last week that Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge was made possible as Pedro’s goal with just 30 seconds on the clock allowed Chelsea to sit deep and play on the counter-attack.
And Puel felt Conte’s men were allowed to repeat that performance thanks to Hazard’s timely strike, telling BBC Sport: “I think we played very well in the first half with so many possibilities and good play.
“But it’s difficult to play against this team when you concede a goal after a few minutes. They can play their game with a strong defence and counter-attack.
“We played very well in the first half. In the second we tried, but after the second goal it was difficult – because my players were tired.
“It was difficult to find solutions, it’s a disappointment because we tried to play good football. We can do better.”
22 – Chelsea have exactly double the number of points (22) that they had after 10 Premier League games last season (11). Improved. pic.twitter.com/pnkN1YWBx2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 30, 2016
Midfielder Steven Davis added: “Chelsea were very well organised, it was difficult to play against.
“We’re frustrated because we had a decent amount of possession without breaking them down. They were clinical as well.”
Southampton’s loss – their first at home this season – denied them the chance to climb into seventh.