A day after the manager had moved to play down reports of a rift with captain John Terry, he saw the England defender lead his side to a victory at Championship Middlesbrough and a place in the last eight.
The Blues took the lead when midfielder Ramires’s 51st-minute shot flicked Fernando Torres, who knew little or nothing about it, and flew past goalkeeper Jason Steele before the impressive Victor Moses (with the help of Hazard and Oscar!!) made sure with a close-range finish 15 minutes from time. But Chelsea were made to work hard for their victory as Boro largely contained them before the break to give the locals among a crowd of 27,856 at the Riverside Stadium hope of a shock result. However, a much-changed. Chelsea gradually eased through the gears to ensure their progression and keep the prospect of a trophy at the end of the season on the horizon. Benitez made no fewer than eight changes to the side which lost 2-0 at Manchester City at the weekend, with only goalkeeper Petr Cech, defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielder Ramires surviving, and that meant a return for Terry and a first senior start for 18-year-old Dutchman Nathan Ake. However, as opposite number Tony Mowbray predicted, he still fielded a side packed with internationals and one capable of doing real damage. But in the event, Chelsea turned in a tepid first-half display despite starting brightly enough with the pace and power of Moses down the right and the invention of Oscar causing problems for Boro. Oscar’s eighth-minute cross was just too strong for Moses and Torres was similarly over-eager two minutes later as he attempted to pick out former West Ham midfielder Yossi Benayoun in the middle. But it took an important block by Nicky Bailey to deny Oscar with 12 minutes gone after Moses had exploded past full-back George Friend and squared for the Brazilian to shoot. Chelsea were enjoying plenty of possession as Ake provided the fulcrum in the middle of the field, but with £50m striker Torres becalmed in a sea of indecision – he scuffed a 21st-minute shot tamely at Steele – they struggled to create clear-cut chances. Striker Scott McDonald met Bailey’s driven cross with a powerful header, but saw the ball fly wide of the far post with Cech looking on anxiously. Carayol dragged an ambitious 36th-minute effort well wide, but he forced Cech into a less than convincing save with five minutes of the half remaining when his shot reared up off the turf and hit the goalkeeper in the chest before being bundled to safety. There were boos from the travelling fans at half-time, but the same 11 men emerged after the break as Benitez gave them further time to make their mark. It took them only six minutes to do just that as they finally edged their way in front. Oscar’s determined run to the by-line and floated cross caused problems for the home defence and when Benayoun fed the loose ball out to Ramires, he curled the ball into the top corner with the help of a slight deflection off Torres. The Spaniard appeared to claim the goal as his team-mates celebrated, but there would have been no question over the shot he unleashed after beating the offside trap had Steele not got his fingertips to it. Boro needed to re-group as they set about the task of trying to drag themselves back into the game, but with the visitors having settled into a rhythm, they were seeing too little of the ball to do a great deal about it. Substitute Eden Hazard might have extended his side’s lead with 18 minutes remaining with a deft shot which just evaded the top corner, but it was he who accepted Oscar’s delicate flick seconds later to provide Moses with a tap-in. Cech had to be on his toes to keep out an 82nd-minute free-kick from Merouane Zemmama, and fellow substitutes Seb Hines and Ishmael Miller both went close in a late flurry, but Chelsea made it to the final whistle with their clean sheet intact. After the match Benitez confirmed he will leave the club at the end of the season. This statement will finally be the joyful news the Chelsea faithful’ who waited anxiously to hear this at the start of his tenure, won’t they? That fat Spanish waiter finally cracked under the pressure after the Middlesborough game confirming he will be leaving at the end of the season whilst blowing his top in a bizarre press conference in which he slammed the fans and the board.
“I have been in charge in football for 26 years. I have won the Champions League, won the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level. A group of fans, they are not doing any favours for the team when they are singing and wasting time preparing banners.
“It’s because someone made a mistake. They put my title (as) ‘interim manager’, and I will leave at the end of the season, so they don’t need to waste time with me. “They have to concentrate on supporting the team, that’s what they have to do.
“In the end, they are not doing any favours to the club, to the rest of the fans and to the players.”