Benitez proud of his Chelsea 'improvement'
Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2
The image of the beleaguered Rafael Benitez, booed and vilified by Chelsea's supporters, is a world apart from the smiling Spaniard who was quipping his way through his post-match press conference at Villa Park on Saturday.
With his Chelsea side having just earned the comeback victory that effectively makes it mission accomplished for the interim manager – another Champions League campaign virtually assured – Benitez had a look of satisfaction on his face as he reflected with "pride" on the job done since replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November.
If he can add a victory in Wednesday's Europa League final against Benfica, he will not only ensure Chelsea's season of transition ends with a silver lining – but also boost his job prospects.
He certainly believes he has done a good job. "With these new players in a lot of competitions I think it's a good achievement," he said. "We played the final in the Club World Cup and now we are in another final and qualified for the Champions League.
"To achieve what we have achieved is really good. I think it's a big improvement," he added, suggesting he will leave the club in better health than it was when he joined.
In his own mind, it is an even bigger achievement given the unwelcoming environment he has found on matchdays.
The results show that Benitez has not just coped but flourished, and he is hopeful his efforts have not gone unnoticed elsewhere, with his agent already "talking around".
First, of course, comes the encounter with Benfica, a challenge Chelsea can focus on without any worries over their league placing thanks to the two second-half goals from Frank Lampard that broke Bobby Tambling's club record goals' tally, Christian Benteke having put Villa ahead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)