After a week of anger and dismay amongst Chelsea supporters it was with no surprise to watch a very edgy and somewhat eerie game at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
New manager Rafael Benitez received the welcome he had been expecting, small protests before and after the game, plus pockets of booing amongst the stands. Along with that there were banners floating around stating ‘Rafa out’ and an admirable support and a 16th minute clap tribute to sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo, who is and always will be a cult hero here now.
So it was hardly the setup for an enthralling match, there was a real sense of disappointment and bad feeling surrounding the stadium and the match, it was one of the strangest games I had ever witnessed, the supporters are visibly hurt and with the anger now calmed down, it’s turned to disappointment, which is even worse. They feel let down by a club that they have dedicated their lives and all their spare time and money to, rightly so.
So we all know that Rafa Benitez attempts to use a defensive and organised system, so the talk before the game was would we see a difference already or a different line up? Well no in the case of his line up, it was the same as Di Matteo used, but in his defence, after only three training sessions, the team did in fact look more organised and better shaped especially in a defensive position. However, this style mirrored the defence style used by Di Matteo in the Champions League last season, we did not commit as many players going forward, we defended in numbers and as a team. The result? We didn’t concede which has to be a plus point after our recent record.
The game itself was very edgy and risk free, both sides failed to really create anything threatening and were very wary when the other side was on the attack, both knowing the damage either attacking force is capable of. It was re-assuring to see David Luiz put in one of his better defensive performances alongside the ever reliable Ivanovic, a very impressive Azpilicueta and of course the best left back in the world, Ashley Cole. Backed up with good positional play and covering support from Ramires and Mikel, we also saw both Mata and Hazard getting back a lot more and not being given so much freedom, something that we had not seen pre Benitez.
Our little Brazilian wonder Oscar put in another clever performance, but possibly defended more than he has in previous matches as well. Fernando Torres worked very hard and battled for everything, although his finishing was still off, he at least showed the confidence to take a shot, when the ball bounced in front of his weaker foot, he had a split second to hit it and to our surprise he did hit it, unfortunately it sailed over the bar, but it was still refreshing to see he had a go.
City posed little threat to our goal apart from a couple of soft shots that was easy for Cech to deal with. Under the circumstances a goalless draw against the League Champions was actually a pretty reasonable result, the performance was also pretty decent, on the whole we did look more organised. If we can now build on that and start taking extra risks, we can move forward and get back amongst the front runners.
Benitez was vocal throughout the game, shouting instructions and writing tactics down on a note pad, he wasn’t phased by the hostile reception, he looked focused and clearly has a point to prove here. However, Benitez has a huge task on his hands if he is even to attempt to remove the big black cloud that is hovering over the Bridge right now.
CFCnet Man Of The Match – Cesar Azpilicueta
Simon Phillips – News Editor – Follow my Twitter here for updates >> @chelseafctbos