Mauricio Pochettino says today’s game against Chelsea hinged on a double substitution made by the visitors early in the second half.
With the game goalless, Blues boss José Mourinho responded to mounting Saints pressure by introducing Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian with 53 minutes gone.
Oscar had a hand in Chelsea’s opener soon afterwards, with his shot deflecting onto the post to allow Fernando Torres to head in on the hour mark.
The pair combined for Willian to score the second soon afterwards, before Oscar added the third late on – much to Pochettino’s disappointment.
“It’s clear that Oscar and Willian came on and revitalised a Chelsea side that until that point weren’t doing too great,” the manager told Saints Player after the game.
“Their introduction revitalised the team. Up until that point in the first hour we played really well and we created lots of chances.
“The goal we conceded was quite lucky because it took a deflection off [Calum] Chambers, hit the post and Torres was in the right place to score the header.
“After that we suffered a lot – Chelsea were a lot more comfortable with all of the space that they were creating and made things really difficult for us.”
Today’s game was Saints’ eighth in the space of a month, with only one of those matches ending in victory.
The schedule shows no sign of easing up, though, with Saints entering The FA Cup with Budweiser when they host Burnley in the Third Round this weekend.
And Pochettino, who had to substitute Luke Shaw at half-time of today’s game with the young full-back struggling with a toe injury sustained against Everton three days ago, says he intends to rotate his squad against the Clarets.
“The FA Cup comes at a good time,” said the manager. “We need to maintain our mentality because we want to put out a fresh side that will be able to compete.
“It’s clear that it has been quite some run of games all coming thick and fast in a short space of time and we have faced a lot of the top sides in that time which has made things even more difficult for us.
“It has been demanding physically and also mentally with these players and to add to that we have had a lot of injuries as well to complicate things even further for us.”