Rafael Benitez’s first game in charge of Chelsea was marred by abuse from the Stamford Bridge faithful, but after the Blues kept their first clean sheet in 11 games, surely the interim manager deserves some plaudits?
Chelsea managed to secure a 0-0 draw with current Premier League champions Manchester City in West London on Sunday, in a turgid game played out by two teams afraid to lose.
City boss Roberto Mancini said after the game that his side were probably the better of the two but urged his forwards to toughen up in front of goal. He told Sky Sports:
“We need to be strong, we were too soft. Games here are always hard, but we played well while missing the last pass.”
City failed to convert a single chance into a goal despite having Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko on the pitch and Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli as backup fire power on the bench.
An unmarked Aguero missed the best chance of the match in the first half, heading straight into Petr Cech’s hands from less than six yards out.
They put the Blues under pressure in the final third, but Mancini’s team failed to break down a wounded Chelsea, who have just seen fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo sacked.
The West Londoners have also been leaky at the back this season, conceding more than 30 goals in all competitions.
City probably looked the most likely out of the two to break the deadlock with David Silva coming close in the first half and Cech saving a headed effort from Matija Nastasic as the match entered its final stages.
But the side that scored five times against Aston Villa last week was unable to find the net at Stamford Bridge, and surely the Chelsea boss, Benitez, deserves some credit for that?
Full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were far more conservative going forward than they were under Di Matteo, and when Chelsea were defending in their own half, the formation looked more like a 4-4-1-1 than the more attacking 4-2-3-1.
Centre-halves David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic can also give themselves a pat on the back for upping their game in front of the new manager.
Neither the Serbian or the error-prone Brazilian put a foot wrong for 90 minutes, and behind them, Cech was again in superb form.
Benitez made minute changes to the defensive set-up of the team, and it would seem that it worked.
All the Spaniard has to do now is find a way to get the three attacking midfielders—Oscar, Juan Mata and Edin Hazard—and the unceasingly out-of-form Fernando Torres, scoring.
Do that, and not only will Chelsea—currently fourth, five points off league leaders Man United—still be in with a chance of winning the title, there will also be cheers, and not boos, echoing around the home of the Blues.