Grant McCann said he could feel the difference of a full KCOM Stadium, even if an “avoidable” goal set Hull City up for an FA Cup exit.
The Tigers pushed Chelsea hard in their televised fourth-round tie, but ultimately they were unable to overcome giving Frank Lampard's side a headstart.
The Blues took a sixth-minute lead through Michy Batshuayi, and doubled it through former Hull loanee Fikayo Tomori. The shots were their first of each half, and McCann was particularly disappointed with the opening goal.
“I thought we played well (in the) second half,” he reflected. “We were disappointed to concede so early.
“I thought we started the game well and the goal we conceded was avoidable. We knew their full-backs are aggressive and we wanted our full-backs to take care of their full-backs but we just switched off for Hudson-Odoi's run and didn't pick up (Cesar) Azpilicueta (who crossed for the goal).
“I thought we settled down a little bit after that and Chelsea had a couple of good chances which George (Long) saved well, I was pleased to come in at 1-0 and adjust a few things tactically.
“(In the) second half we were much better but again we started well and conceded.
“That's probably the most frustrating thing. We've lost two games – Derby away and today - off set plays, which is avoidable.”
Hull were far stronger in the second half, and refused to give up when Tomori's header, unmarked at the far post from a Ross Barkley free-kick, appeared to have ended the tie after 64 minutes. Substitute Kamil Grosicki pulled a goal back after 78 minutes, but could not have started according to his coach.
“In the second we were much more in control of our press and in possession of the ball,” said McCann. “We got ourselves up the pitch with some half-chances and I thought the subs made a difference for us, gave us a bit more freshness.
“We just changed the shape of our team. We felt as if their two No 8s were getting in behind our midfield too easily so we asked Herbie (Kane) and Leo (Lopes) to get around (Mateo) Kovacic and I think it helped us.”
McCann, who was without the ill Daniel Batty, said Grosicki was unable to start having only returned to training after injury two days before.
“He's trained Thursday, a decent session, and Friday was really light, so it would have been too big a risk,” he explained.
McCann's opposite number Frank Lampard, was unhappy his team did not make life easier for themselves.
“You don't expect it to be easy when you come here but we made it harder than we probably had to by not capitalising on Hull being fully at it in the first half,” said the former England midfielder.
“We had chances to score and got slightly sloppy.
“Hull really gave us a tough game in the second half. It remained tough until the 94th minute.
“I don't know how many shots we had but increasingly we're having good, good chances and not taking them... it defines the nature of a game. A second goal in the first half might take the sting out of them more than one does and we have to remain very secure if that's going to be the case.
“We gave them too many opportunities.
“Whilst I'm not delighted with the performance, I also understand the toughness of these games. I've full respect for what Hull did to us today but I'm looking at the bigger picture and how we can improve.”