Chelsea slump to defeat as Benitez bears the brunt
Chelsea 0 Swansea 2
Rafael Benitez endured a torrent of abuse from Chelsea’s fans as the Blues slumped to an embarrassing defeat to Swansea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
Michu scored his 16th goal of the season, and Danny Graham added a late second to put the Swans within touching distance of their first ever major Wembley cup final.
Yet, in truth, Swansea did not have to work hard for their victory. With the exception of David Luiz, Chelsea were very poor throughout. Sloppy in possession and lacking a cutting edge in attack, the Blues looked anything like title challengers or potential cup finalists.
Fernando Torres was the worst offender. The former Liverpool striker has shown signs of improvement since Benitez’s appointment, but tonight the Spaniard’s two chances amounted to a weak header and a long-range shot that almost found the second tier of the Shed End. He touched the ball 19 times during his 81 minutes on the pitch.
Chelsea’s fans spent a large chunk of the match berating Benitez for his failure to bring on Demba Ba, who scored twice on debut last weekend, and they also took umbrage with the interim boss’ failure to bring on Frank Lampard until the 70th minute.
Blues fans have not hidden their dislike towards Benitez since his appointment, but tonight they gave him both barrels, booing the Spaniard’s decisions and calling for the return of Roberto Di Matteo in the dying minutes of the defeat.
Torres started lively enough, drifting out to the left flank where he delivered a clever cross to the front post, but Branislav Ivanovic headed over.
The Spaniard soon exhibited signs of the his woeful form, however. He picked the ball up 30 yards out and crept towards goal before firing a wayward shot that cleared the bar by many metres.
The Blues dominated the game, but lacked a killer touch up front.
Chelsea thought they should have had a penalty when Ki Sung-Yueng grappled with Luiz while going for cross but Anthony Taylor waves play on.
A brilliant flowing move that included touches from Oscar and Luiz eventually ended up with Ramires in space in the Swansea box but he could only prod weakly at Gerhard Tremmel.
Efforts from Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill both went wide while Juan Mata lost his usually clinical touch in front of goal after a foray in to the box by Eden Hazard.
Another brilliant move came on the half-hour with Oscar backheeling the ball in to Mata from Ramires’ pass, but once again the former Valencia man shot wide.
Torres’ only decent contribution of the opening 45 minutes came when he split the Swansea defence, but Tremmel came to the Swans’ rescue.
A quiet hush fell upon Stamford Bridge, with the hosts’ lack of penetration up front clearly dampening their enthusiasm.
The most noise the home support displayed was when Lampard emerged from the dugout to warm up.
The Blues fans fell silent moments later, however, when Ivanovic’s error gifted Swansea the lead. Jonathan de Guzman pinched the ball off the Serb as he dallied on the edge of his own box and squared to Michu, who calmly slotted the ball past Ross Turnbull.
Luiz, by far Chelsea’s best player, went close with two efforts just after the break.
The home fans started to vent their anger at Benitez for not introducing Ba or Lampard. One fan had to be restrained by stewards as he headed in the direction of the Chelsea bench to remonstrate with the former Liverpool boss.
Another fan invaded the pitch to provide the Blues fans with some entertainment. The rest of the home crowd continued to demand Lampard’s introduction, but the calls fell on deaf ears.
Azpilicueta claimed Ben Davies had handled his cross in the Swansea box, but Taylor thought otherwise.
Lampard could not remove his tracksuit quick enough when Benitez beckoned the midfielder over to tell him he wanted him to come on with 20 minutes to go.
Lampard injected life in to the Chelsea, but Torres continued to perform poorly. The striker found space on the edge of the box, but could only head weakly in to Tremmel’s arms.
Ki then sent Michu through with a clever pass, but the linesman flagged for offside just as the former Rayo Vallecano man was about to pull the trigger.
Benitez finally answered the home fans’ demands and brought on Ba with nine minutes left. Torres departed to cheers and a sarcastic standing ovation, with boos also heard.
Ba made an immediate impact, going close with two efforts, the second a looping header from Marko Marin’s cross.
Ba hurtled through injury time and went down after Tremmel failed to collect the ball, but the referee did not give a penalty and instead booked the former Newcastle man for diving.
Chelsea’s night then turned worse with one minute of added time left. Ivanovic’s second terrible backpass allowed Graham to pinch the ball off Turnbull before slotting in to an empty net.
The home fans responded by calling for Benitez’s head. “You’re not welcome here” and “One Di Matteo,” they sang.
Ba thought he had pulled one back for the Blues moments later but his effort was ruled out for offside.