ANOTHER game, another blank for Fernando Torres, but Rafael Benitez believes that the Spanish striker can return to his best form – and it's up to everyone else to help him.
Despite his lack of goals, Torres has always been a popular figure among the Chelsea supporters, which is more than could be said for their new interim manager who had to endure a rough response from the home crowd at Stamford Bridge.
"You could see he was trying hard," said Benitez of the player who starred under his tutelage at Liverpool. "The team has to help Fernando and create more chances. You cannot expect a striker to score just on his own, so we have to create more and better chances for him with the players we have."
Benitez also insisted that positive results and a professional approach would win round the Chelsea supporters who gave him a hugely hostile reception.
The Spaniard initially claimed not to have heard the sustained booing, jeers and abuse that came from all corners of the ground.
But after watching his side labour to a point with a performance that was more solid but far less expansive than under his predecessor Roberto di Matteo – Chelsea managed just a single shot on target – Benitez said he was confident that results would sway the majority of the fans who doubted him.
"The main thing is that the players are focused on the games," he said. "If they are, it'll be fine. I have confidence we will do well and win games. Some of the fans will realise it's not the way to support their team. They'll know they have a professional manager, someone who wants to win games.
"I was concentrating on the game and not listening to anything else. My experience in England is that when the fans are singing in the stands, I don't understand what they say. I can understand (the booing) because of the rivalry in the past. But I'm sure the majority of the fans will understand: I'm a professional, I do my job, I want to win, and I want to win for the club. I hope they share those ideas."
Benitez had left his entrance as late as he could but still emerged from the tunnel to hear the ground chanting the name of his predecessor, Di Matteo. Given the sensitivity of his appointment there was no formal introduction, but a reference from the on-field announcer prompted prolonged and concerted derision.
The catcalls came from all over the ground and lasted for a full minute. Incongruously, this display of bitter disapproval was followed by a minute's applause to mark the passing of Dave Sexton who, like Di Matteo, led the club to an FA Cup and a European title.
Chants of "F*** off Benitez, you're not welcome here" followed kick-off, and the crowd rose almost as one to chant Di Matteo's name throughout the 16th minute, marking the number he wore in his playing days at Chelsea.
There were anti-Benitez placards too in the Matthew Harding Stand, reading, 'In Robbie we loved and trusted, in Rafa we will never trust' and the simple message 'Rafa Out'.
If he gets his way in the summer Roman Abramovich will take the advice and replace Benitez with Pep Guardiola, but for now he looked unimpressed at this show of temerity from the supporters. If he did not realise how unpopular the appointment would be before kick-off, he can be in no doubt now.
Benitez said he had spoken with Abramovich after the game, demonstrating that of the 41,792 present the Russian's opinion is the only one that counts. "He knows it was a tough game, a difficult time after the last games. He knows my opinion. He's like me: he knows we have to win, want to win, and we keep working for that."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
If ever a football man needed to hear a friendly voice, or feel the warmth of a moment's grace, it was surely Rafa Benitez at Stamford Bridge when even the cold of the enveloping night seemed to be reserved expressly for him.