LONDON: Chelsea supporters are growing ever more upset with the sight of Rafa Benitez sitting on the bench.
That crescendo of anger continues to rise after a 3-2 defeat at Newcastle following a 2-2 FA Cup draw away to Uwe Rosler’s third level Brentford and conceding a two-goal lead away to struggling Reading.
Benitez’s record, since his arrival at the end of October, is inferior to that of luckless predecessor Roberto Di Matteo, the man who earned an unassailable place in the club pantheon by guiding the Blues to Champions League glory.
Chelsea have managed only three victories in the past 10 matches in all competitions and the fans’ fury has erupted all over Twitter. One fan tweeted: “I hope [owner Roman] Abramovich is happy with the collapse of our season. Chelsea have turned into a joke.” Another tweeted: “What more does Benitez have to do to get sacked?”
Twitter is a powerful medium in the English game and the fans’ anger has been exacerbated by the perception that Benitez has proved unable to achieve the single expectation of the sceptics: that his arrival would revitalise poor Fernando Torres.
Ba humbug . . .
At Newcastle Torres started on the bench and joined the action only after Demba Ba – who swapped the black-and-white stripes for Chelsea blue a month ago – had suffered a broken nose after being kicked in the face by home skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
Earlier Ba had made a bright start and keeper Tim Krul had to be at his best to defy him three times over, allowing Jonas Gutierrez to put Newcastle ahead against the run of play.
Frank Lampard equalised for Chelsea after the break with a 25-yard drive then Juan Mata converted a second from an assist by Torres. However a lack of commitment in midfield cost Chelsea their command and Moussa Sissoko scored his first two goals for Newcastle to turn the match on its head.
Sissoko was hailed not only as man of the match but as a potential candidate for bargain of the season after costing a mere £1.8m from Toulouse.
Benitez tried to make the best of the defeat by blaming World Cup Final referee Howard Webb for not awarding Chelsea a penalty from the Ba/Coloccini incident.
He said: “It should have been a red card and a penalty. If it had been in the middle of the pitch the play would carry on and then we would go back and get a free kick. It should be exactly the same in the penalty box.”
Benitez has apparently told Chelsea’s players that he expects to be still there next season. This may help inspire some reassurance and stability for the players but it will have the opposite effect on fans.