Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea nightmare continued yesterday as West Ham hit back to inflict his first defeat in charge and extend his winless start as interim manager. Already the first boss of the Roman Abramovich era to not oversee a victory in his opening two games under the Russian, it got worse for Benitez at Upton Park as the Blues made it seven Barclays Premier League games without maximum points.
Chelsea have not endured such a barren run in the Premier League since 1995, and Benitez has picked up just two points from a possible nine since replacing the sacked Roberto Di Matteo. “To win, it’s simple,” Benitez said. “In the first half we just had to score more goals. We have to improve.
West Ham were transformed after manager Sam Allardyce introduced Diame and Matt Taylor at half-time and ultimately victory for a vastly improved performance in the second period. “We started okay but when they scored we just lost our confidence. I think we lost our momentum,” said the West Ham coach. “I just needed to make some changes, bring in some fresh legs. It was all about playing in the opposition’s half, playing off Carlton Cole. I felt he was itching for a real good game.”
Benitez made four changes to the side that started the draw against Fulham, underlining the manager’s pre-match assertion that the demands of the season are already beginning to tell on Chelsea’s senior players.
Mata, surprisingly held back on the bench in mid-week, returned in place of Ryan Bertrand, while Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel came in for Oscar and Oriol Romeu, and Gary Cahill stepped in for suspended centre-back David Luiz.
After the frustrations of Benitez’s first few days in charge at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea desperately wanted to make a positive start. And after surviving an early lapse when Winston Reid was allowed a free header in the Blues penalty area, they opened up the West Ham defence with ease to allow Mata to score the confidence-lifting opening goal.
The move was as simple as it was incisive, stemming from a throw-in on the half-way line. Moses released Torres on the right-hand side of the West Ham area and the striker’s cut-back found Mata, who finished side-footed from 12 yards. The effect on Chelsea was tangible and Benitez’s side began to press forward with a fluency that was noticeably absent during their previous two games.
They had Jussi Jaaskelainen to thank for restricting Chelsea to a single-goal lead at half-time after the goalkeeper produced an excellent save to repel Mata’s close-range shot.
Allardyce made two changes at half-time, introducing Diame and Taylor for James Tomkins and Gary O’Neil, and the changes had an immediate effect. Immediately, Chelsea were pressed onto the back foot and forced to defend with increasing desperation.
But the back-line was broken when Cole out-jumped Branislav Ivanovic after a misunderstanding with Cech to head the home side level in the 63rd minute . Chelsea responded positively, Mata hitting the post with a curling free-kick.
But the momentum was with West Ham and Allardyce’s side went ahead in the 86th minute when Diame latched onto Cole’s lay-off to drill the ball home. And substitute Maiga sealed the points when he found the roof of the net after Taylor’s shot rebounded by the save from Petr Cech.
It has been just three matches for Rafael Benitez as manager, but already the fans are calling for his head. Chelsea has dropped ten points behind league leading Manchester United and looks completely out of sorts. Whether it has to do with Benitez, or the players simply not performing, The Blues need a quick turnaround if they want to stay in the title race. Manchester United and Manchester City are starting to hit stride and if Chelsea isn’t careful, they could be left in the dust.
- No end to Chelsea’s woeful form (iol.co.za)
- West Ham fight back to defeat Chelsea 3-1 at Upton Park (examiner.com)
- West Ham 3 Chelsea 1: Hammers brilliant second half performance adds to Rafa Benitez woe (standard.co.uk)
- West Ham forever blowing bubbles as Hammers fight back to beat Chelsea 3-1 at home (soccerwithoutlimits.com)
- West Ham vs Chelsea Match Preview: Searching for goals (chelseatrueblue.com)