Football: Boos rung our around Stamford Bridge at the final whistle last night as Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea players staggered to their second successive goalless draw after failing to overcome west London rivals Fulham.
Only victories will win over the home supporters and Benitez, the Spanish manager who was the unpopular choice to replace the sacked Roberto di Matteo last week, was again targeted by Chelsea fans as his players again failed to score following the draw against Manchester City over the weekend.
Di Matteo will be remembered fondly for guiding the club to Champions League victory last May. The former Chelsea midfielder’s name was chanted throughout the match. Up in the West Stand, club owner Roman Abramovich could be seen slumped in his seat as he watched this poor spectacle.
Benitez, however, was in determined mood after the match when discussing the potential of Chelsea. “Why can't we?” said the Spaniard defiantly, when asked if his side could recover from their uneven start and challenge for title honours.
He added: “It's still a long way to go. We have to keep going. We'll have chances. It's a long, long competition. The main thing is to win games. If we do, we'll be there and we can win competitions. We need to start doing that and the confidence will come back.”
Oscar looked the most likely of Benitez’s attackers to break the deadlock in a poor first half. However, the young Brazilian, along with rest of the Chelsea forward line, was unable to create any noteworthy goal-scoring opportunities.
On 29 minutes, Fernando Torres, the Chelsea striker who was such a formidable force under Benitez during their Liverpool days, came close as he wriggled free in the penalty area. Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer was alert to the danger.
The second half was little better. Ahead of Chelsea’s trip to West Ham United on Saturday, Benitez rested Juan Mata, the Spanish playmaker, for this match.
On 63 minutes, Ryan Bertrand was replaced in favour of Mata as the Chelsea boss looked to inject some much-needed creativity into what had been desperately dull affair. It didn’t work.
Chelsea’s players, for all their efforts, were unable to raise their game. Coming up against some resolute defending, they continued to struggle. Eden Hazard, the Belgian star who began the season so impressively, was next to be withdrawn from play.
On 79 minutes, Torres came close again, but his goal-bound effort was cleared off the goal line by Fulham defender Aaron Hughes.
In the end, a point shared was a fair result. Chelsea now have a record of just one win in seven matches.
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