Wednesday 11 December 2019

Benitez understands Chelsea's lack of home comforts

Eleanor Crooks

CHELSEA boss Rafael Benitez believes football reasons rather than the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge can explain the difference in his side's home and away form.

The Blues were at their best at Stoke's Britannia Stadium yesterday, thumping the hosts 4-0 to end an unbeaten home Barclays Premier League run that went back to February and handing the Potters their worst home defeat since promotion in 2008.

Chelsea arrived in Staffordshire with the heat again on Benitez after back-to-back home defeats, to QPR in the league and Swansea in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final.

The tone was set when interim boss Benitez was roundly booed by his own supporters in his first home game against Manchester City in November, and the fans again made their feelings felt during Wednesday's loss to the Swans.

Since the Spaniard took charge, Chelsea have lost twice and drawn twice at Stamford Bridge, while they have won all but one of their matches on the road.

Benitez said: "Against Swansea it was two individual mistakes but we created a lot of chances and we could have scored a lot of goals.

"The other team is compact and deep and it's not easy to find the space. When you play away the other team is coming against you and you have more space."

Stoke played a large part in their own downfall, with Jonathan Walters scoring two own goals while Chelsea's third came from the penalty spot after Robert Huth was adjudged to have fouled Juan Mata.

Frank Lampard converted and Eden Hazard added a spectacular fourth, while there was still time for Walters to complete a thoroughly miserable day by missing a 90th-minute penalty.

The Britannia Stadium witnessed the return of Chelsea captain John Terry after two months out with a knee injury, although the defender's main contribution in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch was to trip Walters for the penalty.

Benitez said: "I wanted to give him some minutes and see how he was because I watched him the other day with the reserve team. This is a totally different challenge. It was okay, it's the first time so it's fine. It's just a question of fitness now."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech hailed the result at one of the Premier League's most intimidating venues and felt the opening goal came at an important moment.

He said: "It's a great win. This is a big weekend. We had a very difficult game against a very good side at home. Their home record is brilliant so it's very tough to come here every time and get a great result.

"We had to be patient to score a goal. Obviously the goal in the last minute of the first half made a big difference because in the second half they had to open up a little bit more and we punished them."

It was certainly not Stoke's day, and manager Tony Pulis was left to rue an incident in the second half where an opportunity to get back into the game was snatched away.

Andre Marriner pointed to the spot after Matthew Etherington fell under a challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta but the Stoke celebrations were cut short when the referee spotted lineswoman Sian Massey had flagged for offside.

Chelsea's second goal came four minutes later, and Pulis said: "It just didn't go for us.

"The referee gave us a penalty at 1-0, and it was offside, it's a good call, but if that goes for you the game's one each and we've got the impetus.

"I didn't think we deserved to be losing the game coming in after the first half, and up until they scored the second goal I thought we were the better team or the team that looked more likely to score, although Chelsea have got some great players."

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport