London - Rafael Benitez was given a toxic
welcome by Chelsea supporters as his first match as manager ended in a
0-0 draw at home to English Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday.
Spaniard became a hate figure at Stamford Bridge in the previous decade
when he was in charge of Liverpool, where he made a number of comments
about Chelsea that were deemed unforgivable by a section of the Blues
Yet just how strongly the majority of those present for
this match felt about him was a surprise, as Benitez's name was loudly
booed by thousands of supporters as soon as it was mentioned by the
It only stopped when news that former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton had died was conveyed.
was a minute's applause in Sexton's memory but afterwards the home fans
sang in praise of Roberto Di Matteo, the man sacked to make way for
Benitez, who was soon also told that he was "not wanted here".
Placards with the words 'Rafa out' were also held up for the benefit of the television cameras.
eyebrow-raising was the restoration of Fernando Torres to the Chelsea
starting line-up, after he was dropped for the 3-0 Champions League
defeat at Juventus on Tuesday which prompted Di Matteo's dismissal.
enjoyed the most productive spell of his career under Benitez while
they were together at Anfield, and there were rumours Di Matteo was
fired for defying a directive from owner Roman Abramovich that Torres
had to play.
Abramovich was in the stands for this game, watching
impassively as usual, and it was noticeable that no chants were aimed
directly at him.
The opening minutes saw neither side fashion a
clear-cut chance, and the 16th minute saw Chelsea fans burst into
sustained applause to hail Di Matteo, who had worn the number 16 shirt
as a player at Stamford Bridge.
The first chance went to City,
with David Silva heading just over after Pablo Zabaleta had picked him
out in the box with a cross from the right.
Sergio Aguero was next
to have a go as the Premier League champions began to get a grip on the
game, but Cesar Azpilicueta threw himself in the way to make a block.
threats were more sporadic, although City goalkeeper Joe Hart did have
to punch away under pressure, but it was not long before Zabaleta was
again posing problems at the other end and Petr Cech had to beat away a
City should have been ahead in the 42nd minute when
Edin Dzeko's knock-down fell perfectly for Aguero, but the Argentina
international inexplicably headed straight into Cech's arms.
looked more lively in the second half, which saw Ramires fire a
long-range effort over and at last a chance came Torres' way after Eden
Hazard had flicked the ball into his path, but though his shot was
powerful enough to beat Hart, it was also too high.
pressing and Ashley Cole had to clear in front of his own goal after
Dzeko, who was about to be replaced by Carlos Tevez, crossed from the
With seven minutes remaining, Torres went down in the box but referee Chris Foy was not interested in awarding a penalty.
was a chance for City in stoppage-time but Cech was able to save
Aleksandar Kolarov's header from a corner and the final whistle marked
90 minutes that had failed to live up to the hype.
It left City in second, a point behind leaders Manchester United, and Chelsea in fourth, a point below West Bromwich Albion.
English Premier League results on Sunday:
Swansea 0 Liverpool 0
Southampton 2 Newcastle 0
Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Tottenham 3 West Ham 1
Played on Saturday:
Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0
Everton 1 Norwich 1
Man Utd 3 QPR 1
Stoke 1 Fulham 0
Sunderland 2 West Brom 4
Wigan 3 Reading 2