Conte slams first-half display but salutes Chelsea reaction
Antonio Conte was scathing of the first-half performance that saw Chelsea trail 2-0 to Southampton on Saturday, but he credited their reaction and "spirit" as the visitors battled back to win 3-2 at St Mary's Stadium.
Chelsea were far from their best once again and looked to be heading towards a sixth defeat in nine Premier League games thanks to goals from Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek.
But substitute Olivier Giroud inspired a turnaround with two goals either side of Eden Hazard's emphatic strike to spare Chelsea's blushes and leave the Saints three points adrift of safety.
And although Conte was impressed with the comeback – the first time Chelsea had come from two goals down to win a league game since 2002 – he was keen to ensure people knew his opinion of their first-half display.
"The first half wasn't good, not only from tactical aspect," the Italian told Sky Sports. "I think we didn't show great spirit, great desire, great fight for a good result.
"I think the first half was very negative. In the second [half] I saw a great reaction, greater desire, the right way to win the game.
"Don't forget we went 2-0 down, but we had the right spirit to come back and win the game.
"If you don't have something in your heart, it's very difficult to come back and win.
"I'm very disappointed for the first half, and I'm the first to take fault for it, but in the second my players deserve credit.
"In every game we must play with great passion, spirit. You can lose, draw or win, but in your mind and heart you must know you have given everything for this team, for this colour for our fans.
"This the most important thing and we must finish the season with this spirit."
The two sides will meet again in the FA Cup semi-finals next week.