AS the crestfallen Huddersfield Town players trudged from the field at the final whistle, David Wagner made a point of seeking out each and every one of them.
Some were offered a hand-shake by the Terriers chief, others a hug. The message relayed, however, to each of those sporting blue and white was identical.
“I told all the players: ‘There is no reason to have your head down’,” said the German in the wake of the opening day loss to Chelsea.
“Or for them to over-think this result. Instead, there is every reason to take the positives out of this game – especially in the first half, when we did so many things right.
“A disappointing result, for sure. This can happen against a top quality side. But I saw enough to be confident we are moving in the right direction.”
Since returning to the top two divisions in 2012, Town’s opening day results have been something of a mixed bag.
There was the horror show of four years ago as Bournemouth ran riot to win 4-0 and persuade Terriers manager Mark Robins to quit despite there being 45 games left to put right what had gone so horribly wrong against Eddie Howe’s men.
Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City have also ensured a campaign got off to the worst possible start for Huddersfield since Simon Grayson led the club to promotion.
The flipside to those opening day losses, of course, came via victories over Brentford in 2016 and Crystal Palace a year ago.
Making it a hat-trick of London scalps against Chelsea was always going to be a tall order, especially with new manager Maurizio Sarri and the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa, being so determined to start their careers in England on a high.
So it proved, as goals from N’Golo Kante and Pedro either side of a coolly taken penalty by Jorginho on debut ensured the Blues returned south with all three points.
Town, though, did have the satisfaction of giving Sarri and his new charges a major fright in a first half that was a lot more even than the 2-0 interval scoreline suggested.
Both sides created one gilt-edged chance apiece from open play, while both had big shouts for a penalty.
However, where Steve Mounie headed against the inside of a post for the hosts from a flicked on corner from Aaron Mooy, Kante rounded off a lovely flowing move by volleying into the corner of Ben Hamer’s net.
It was a similar story with the penalty appeals. First, referee Chris Kavanagh deemed Alex Pritchard to have been in the wrong after taking a tumble under a very clumsy challenge from David Luiz that could easily have gone the way of the Town man.
Then, after some delightful inter-play had opened up the home defence a minute before the break, Christopher Schindler stuck out a foot and got Marcos Alonso rather than the ball to leave Kavanagh rightly pointing to the spot.
Jorginho did the rest with a shimmy that wrong-footed Hamer sufficiently for the only debutant in Town’s starting XI to already be on his backside before the ball had rolled into the net.
Fine margins, as Wagner was keen to point out to his players at the final whistle as they trooped disconsolately from the field.
His desire to get this message across as quickly as possible rather than wait for the sanctuary of the dressing room was probably down to how flat Huddersfield had been in the second half.
Clearly left shell-shocked by conceding twice in those 10 minutes before the interval, Wagner’s players were fortunate that Chelsea showed little appetite to push on for more goals once the three points had been safely secured.
Only when Eden Hazard was introduced from the bench did the Blues step up a gear, the Belgian providing the assist for Pedro to claim the goal 10 minutes from time that his impressive efforts had deserved.
Things will not get any easier for Town, who visit champions Manchester City next Sunday. But Florent Hadergjonaj insists the players have already taken on board the words of their head coach.
“Last season gives us confidence,” said the full-back, who made his move from FC Ingolstadt permanent in the summer for £3.5m. “We knew it would be hard this season but we knew that last year.
“We did it (stayed up) last season, so why can’t we do it this time? We know it is even harder in this second year, because the teams who came up are strong and have bought a lot of players. They have invested money.
“But we are very confident. We have a good team this year. We have shown that against Chelsea, but the luck was not on our side.
“We had a very good first half. We could have made it 1-1 with Steve’s header and then the game could have changed. We had no luck.
“What we must also remember is we do not play Chelsea every week. This was a very big opener, as they have fantastic players. We knew that this week was Chelsea, and that next week is also going to be very hard at Manchester City.
“But we showed last time that we can take points against any team. It doesn’t matter if we are at home or away. Last season we played a 0-0 against Manchester City away, so why can’t we repeat it in the new season?
“We have to keep going, to analyse this game and take the positive things out of it – and also remember we have good games in front of us.
“This was just the first game. We have 37 games to go.”