Sunday 24 September 2017

Benitez defiant as reign in doubt after just nine days

DION FANNING

Rafa Benitez insisted that the ugly mood surrounding his Chelsea side will change once his team start to win matches. Already there is a sense that it needs to happen fast.

West Ham came from a goal down to win 3-1 at Upton Park yesterday and Chelsea fans unfurled banners against Benitez and joined in with West Ham chants that he was "getting sacked in the morning".

Astonishingly, after three games and nine days in the position, Benitez was asked afterwards if he was worried he would lose his job.

"The main thing is to improve the team," he said. "I don't think about anything else. It depends on the things we can do on the pitch. If we improve on the pitch, then things will be easier for everyone."

The afternoon had started so well for him if you ignore the chanting and banners from his own supporters which made clear their opposition to him. Chelsea pulverised West Ham in the first half and went in ahead thanks to Juan Mata's goal but they should have had the game won. "It's difficult to explain when you are so good in the first half," Benitez said.

CHELSEA AT WAR Page 3

"I wouldn't say we were dead and buried but it was looking very difficult," West Ham manager Sam Allardyce admitted. Allardyce had to deal with the news that Andy Carroll would be out for two months but his side's problems were greater than that in the first half.

At half-time, Allardyce acted decisively, sending on Mohamed Diame and Matt Taylor, and Chelsea crumbled. Having led 1-0 at half-time, they complained with some justification that Carlton Cole fouled Branislav Ivanovic for the equaliser but there wasn't much else to complain about.

Diame changed the game and scored the second goal which sunk Benitez's side. West Ham overran Chelsea and by the time substitute Modibo Maiga knocked in the third, the home crowd was ecstatic while the away supporters turned on the new manager.

Benitez needs John Terry to return as the players again demonstrated yesterday that they weren't bought for December days at the Boleyn Ground.

"The players we have, they need to be in possession. When you are not in possession you have to cope physically and we didn't do that well," Benitez acknowledged afterwards.

Allardyce, in contrast, was delighted with the result and victory over a manager he has never got on with. He said he felt little sympathy for Benitez in his position.

"We compete against each other, we toil against each other, we play mind games against each other," he added.

The supporters are playing mind games against their own team now but Benitez insisted he wouldn't be deflected.

"My concern is to improve the team, to analyse what is wrong on the pitch. If we improve the team and we start winning games, it will be easy to turn things around. We have to improve on the pitch and the fans will be happy."

Happiness seems a long way off at the moment.

"I am here because I wanted to be here," Benitez said. Yesterday he was a man alone.

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