Steve Bruce felt that few sides could have lived with the quality shown by Chelsea in the opening half-hour of Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge, but the manager took plenty of positives from the way his team clawed their way back into the game.
A rapid start from the Blues had them 2-0 up inside 25 minutes and the damage could have been far worse had it not been for a string of fine saves from goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who also kept out a Frank Lampard penalty.
However, Bruce’s side then came into the game and an improved second half display saw confidence grow as the scoreline remained the same.
“It was a case of welcome to the pleasure dome in the first 25 minutes,” admitted Bruce.
“I don’t think there are many teams that would have been able to cope with Chelsea’s intensity and the way they played.
“It was always going to be difficult but when McGregor made the penalty save I was thinking ‘could this be our day’.
“We found it so difficult in the first 25 minutes, but the pleasing thing for me was the way we stuck at it. It would have been very easy to just roll over, but we stuck at it, hung in there and in the second half we made a fist of it. That will give us a bit of confidence.
“Thankfully we don’t play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge every week with the Special One coming back! The way they played in that opening spell was simply terrific and we found it very, very difficult.
“The second half was much, much better and the addition of the Tottenham lads (Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore) certainly helped us which is very pleasing for us going into next week and the weeks and months after that.”
Many had expected Huddlestone and Livermore to start against Chelsea, but Bruce explained why they began on the bench.
“I can understand why people thought they might start, but they’d only been with us for 48 hours,” added Bruce.
“Believe it or not, we’ve been planning for Chelsea for the last two-and-a-half to three weeks.
“Also, the people that have got us into this situation, a lot of them played against Chelsea and that was important too. Those that played on the horrible Tuesday nights on the road last season, the 1-0 wins at places like Huddersfield, they needed to play against Chelsea and I needed to stay with them.
“They deserved the opportunity to play against Chelsea because they are the ones that have got us here.”
The Tigers will now prepare for next Saturday’s home game against Norwich with defeat at Stamford Bridge doing little to dampen Bruce’s optimism.
“We’ve played a Chelsea team that were fully bang at it for obvious reasons,” said Bruce.
“But we stuck in there and offered enough encouragement to me that we can make a fist of staying in this division.”