When Rafael Benitez accepted the job of Interim First Team Coach, one of the first questions asked to him was how he would go about winning the Chelsea fans around. He replied as if it were an easy task: “Simple: win games, win win win.”
And after seeing a 2-0 lead slip inexplicably, it may well be time to ask him the question “how do you win games?”
For this Spaniard, well-regarded in Spain and up north, put on a dismal show, to further amplify the boos directed at him. This is a man who wants to look like he asserts his authority, but the hard work for 87 minutes was undone with the last few.
At Brentford and 2-1 down, Chelsea needed an equaliser. Demba Ba was on the bench, but instead, Rafa opted to send on Azpilicueta. This time, when Chelsea needed to shut up shop for the dying seconds, John Terry was on the bench, yet Benitez opted for a striker-striker substitutions.
It is these bizarre, irrational and confusing moves that will spell the end of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea.
Even Bruce Buck shares his frustrations in his letter response to a Chelsea fan: “the Board and Roman are as frustrated as you are with some of the recent results.”
A few more performances like this and Rafa may join the Hall Of Shame as a Chelsea reject and failure. It continues to stagger the Chelsea faithful that in 185 games, Chelsea had lost only 21 games under Jose. Projecting Benitez going at his current rate, it will take just 41 matches to lose the same amount.
Rumours about Hiddink and his return to the Bridge will no doubt concern Rafa, whose win percentage at Chelsea is a more than 20% lower than Guus’.
It was the Royals’ 100th Premier League match, and you could see they were up for the occasion. But they have yet to beat Chelsea in this competition, and it was a match that could have ended so differently.
Gary Cahill was playing his 50th Chelsea game and had the opportunity to mark his milestone with a goal, but the two opportunities presented to him from Lampard set-pieces could not find the target. The defender had to be proficient in his own box, keeping a firm eye on Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Torres continued to frustrate with a shot that went out for a throw-in, before making amends with a wonderful assist as Chelsea took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
Mata laid the ball to Torres before advancing into the box, and when Fernando’s chipped through ball found his compatriot, all Mata had to do was rifle home: 1-0.
The duo have now shared 30 goals in all competitions this season — 15 each — with Torres netting his third assist.
A fancy first goal could have been outdone by an elegant second had it paid off. Frank Lampard showed vision second-to-none, and Oscar was tactically aware to run onto the high ball, but his chest control and panicked shot flew wide, with Torres screaming on the penalty spot unmarked.
The second was not far off, however, and it was Frank Lampard recording his 196th Chelsea goal.
So often the veteran midfielder is taking the corners that he has little chance of scoring from set-pieces, but Mata turned provider this time by whipping it in inch-perfect, and Lampard planted it high into the net.
Then complacency slipped in. Yossi Benayoun was given a run out with Rafa convinced his side were home and dry, taking Juan Mata off, a move he would soon regret.
If Chelsea’s subtitution was ill-adviced, Reading’s was inspired. Adam Le Fondre proved his status as super-sub with a goal in the 87th minute, beating a lacklustre Ivanovic to the ball and firing past Turnbull’s near post.
Reading had a free-kick in their own half five minutes into the six added on. Federici’s long punt up caused confusion, but three Reading players were waiting unmarked at the far post, with one being Le Fondre, who duly did the rest, to send both sets of fans mad, in very different ways.