Alan Curbishley has challenged his side to "bounce back" on Wednesday after West Ham United were undone by "clinical finishing" against Chelsea.
The midweek trip to Liverpool will allow Curbishley's men the chance to make instant amends for the 4-0 home defeat by a Chelsea side who were coming off the back of their Carling Cup defeat the previous weekend. "We are desperately disappointed for ourselves and our fans," the manager said. "That result has not happened to us all season. We have got to try and bounce back on Wednesday."
Indeed, West Ham United went into the game on the back of a six-match unbeaten run at the Boleyn Ground - including victories against Manchester United and Liverpool but found Chelsea in potent form in front of goal. "To go three down in five minutes against a top-four team is massively difficult," said Curbishley, who added that Chelsea "probably had something to prove" from the 2-1 final loss to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
"When you give yourself a start like that, there is no way you can come back and when we did [through Carlton Cole's chance] John Terry didn't give up and cleared it off the line." The manager said the 17th-minute spot-kick opener from Frank Lampard was a "poor penalty from our defensive situation" before acknowledging that "the two finishes from Joe Cole and Ballack were clinical although we could argue that we should perhaps have got some people closer to them. But I don't think they are going to hit two sweeter strikes."
Despite Frank Lampard's 36th-minute dismissal, Ashley Cole was able to wrap up a comfortable success for Avram Grant's visitors with a 64th-minute goal. The second half was notable though for the return of Bobby Zamora after his absence since 28 August with a knee injury and he looked bright against a team that could still have a say in the league title, according to Curbishley. "Chelsea put themselves back in the race with a performance that showed everybody it was a one-off last week and they are on their way back.
With Didier Drogba and Michael Essien rested, and Shaun Wright-Phillips not even in the matchday 16, it was a strong squad that Grant had to choose from. "Everyone is basically fit at Chelsea. They have got 25/26 players to pick from which may be a problem for Avram as he proceeds but it is a massively strong talented squad ... You are talking about a side and a squad that if you don't get it right and you find yourselves 3-0 down in 20 odd minutes that is a massive situation to come back from and we obviously couldn't."
Acknowledging Chelsea's superiority on the day, he added: "We couldn't even with ten men break them down. It is massively important the start you get when you play the [top four] teams. If I just took the goals out of it, which obviously you can't, I think it was quite even. They have gone up there four times - one got disallowed and they scored three. It was clinical finishing from Cole and Ballack."
The manager has rightly praised his rearguard all season and said his players would learn from what happened. "I have said to them they have prided themselves as a team for their defending and we got it wrong today. It is not just the back five. Midfield players have helped out all season but Joe Cole and Ballack got away and got free strikes off. We will have to look at that and why that happened.
"We knew Chelsea would soak it up and try and hit us on the break. That's what they did a couple of times. The game had got away from us in five minutes through fantastic finishing. I don't think Joe will get one off his left foot like that for a little while and Ballack knew exactly what he was doing. It is something we have got to look at."