Martin O'Neill heaped the ultimate praise on Chelsea after their comprehensive 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking directly afterwards, O'Neill said: "Chelsea were brilliant. We would have needed all our best players back from injury, playing at the top of their abilities, just to compete with them," said the Irishman.
He went on to say; "It was a harsh lesson for us. They were absolutely terrific. That was the best they have played this season. I actually thought before the game we could win. But I was hoping my players would come to the fore - sadly they didn't.
"Chelsea are also about to contend with injuries.
"Even if we had won, I would not have been shouting that we could break into the top four so I'm not going to beat myself up over this defeat either.
"We won't stop trying to get to the top. If we do, then what's the point in playing?
"The gap however is not unbridgeable.
"We competed with Liverpool at our place."
Of all of Chelsea players, O'Neill said of Frank Lampard.
"He was absolutely outstanding.
"But Ashley Cole is back to his best, with the freedom to get forward at will."
Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari was in great mood but less generous with his praise.
"I am satisfied," said the Brazilian.
"It was an important game to win as we remain top of the league while we have a break for international football.
"I am looking to get some injured players fit.
"Joe Cole had a foot problem and john terry should have a couple of days rest - both should be able to play for England next week.
"Nicolas Anelka came off complaining of a pain in his leg."