Mourinho happy with mature Chelsea
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was delighted with the response of his players to conceding after 13 seconds in the 3-1 defeat of Southampton which took his side within four points of Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal.
After Jay Rodriguez's opening goal, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Demba Ba scored in the second half as Mourinho's unbeaten Premier League home record was extended to 67 games and the Blues won for a sixth time in seven attempts at Stamford Bridge this season.
The result was all the more significant after Liverpool lost at Hull and Manchester United and Tottenham drew at White Hart Lane.
"The goal was like a knife in our back; by surprise you are losing 1-0," Mourinho said.
"(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."
Mourinho attempted to play down Chelsea's title ambitions, merely suggesting it was important his team were in contention after being out of it at this stage of the season in recent campaigns.
"They must feel the responsibility to play for Chelsea," Mourinho added.
"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."
Next Chelsea face Sunderland, Stoke and Crystal Palace in three Premier League games before the December 23 contest at Arsenal.
Mourinho is not ready to look ahead to the trip to the Emirates Stadium.
"Now we have two matches away, after that we play Crystal Palace at home," he added.
"We are playing against three teams, they need points, because of the position they have, so we are going to have very difficult matches."
Michael Essien, on his first Premier League start since May 2012, gave away the ball for Rodriguez's goal and was off the pace in a first half where he was booked for diving.
Mourinho replaced the Ghana midfielder at half-time, insisting he did so only to safeguard against a potential dismissal.
"Everybody makes a mistake," Mourinho added.
"Strikers they miss goals, goalkeepers they make mistakes, midfield players, they lose balls, especially when they try to play. And he tried to play. It was a back pass and they scored the goal.
"He had a very normal performance. He played a part in the stability the team had in the first half, but one yellow card for 45 minutes is a long time.
"I had to take one off and it was a very normal decision. Essien is Essien, he's my man, he's a Chelsea man and no problem, because other guys they make mistakes."
Ba was Essien's replacement and proved a nuisance up front alongside Fernando Torres in a 4-4-2 formation as Chelsea chased the game, with Frank Lampard on in midfield for Oscar, who went off injured.
"We gave Southampton a different game, a game that they didn't expect," Mourinho said.
"I think it was difficult for them to cope with the situation."
Mauricio Pochettino admitted the early goal had an impact on Southampton's approach and rued the concession of two goals from set-pieces.
"It's clear that the game changed when we scored that goal so early on," Pochettino said.
"I think we competed well and even up to them getting even, I think that was our best spell during the game because we were attacking.
"Then we conceded two goals from set-pieces. That cannot happen.
"That's a mistake that shouldn't happen in football. They were soft goals we shouldn't have conceded."
After a first defeat in nine games at Arsenal, Saints have now lost to two of the title contenders who Pochettino says cannot be split.
"They're clearly two teams that are going to be in the fighting to win the league," Pochettino said.
"Both teams have their strengths, have their weapons to inflict a lot of danger to their opposition."