Rafa's reign at Chelsea starts with a draw

JUSTIN PALMER
Last updated 09:32 26/11/2012

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Rafael Benitez was jeered by angry Chelsea fans before the interim manager's Stamford Bridge reign began with a dour 0-0 Premier League draw against champions Manchester City on Sunday.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich axed the popular Roberto Di Matteo on Wednesday, hours after a Champions League defeat by Juventus continued the team's poor run of results, and appointed Spaniard Benitez for the rest of the season.

The former Liverpool manager's arrival in the dugout shortly before kickoff was serenaded by jeers and boos from the home supporters who continued to chant Di Matteo's name throughout the first half.

The enmity towards Benitez stemmed from the run-ins he had with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during his time at Liverpool and the popularity of former player Di Matteo who guided the Londoners to Champions League and FA Cup glory in his eight months in charge.

"I was just concentrating on the game, I was not paying attention to anything else, just the performance of the players on the pitch," Benitez told reporters after a point apiece kept Chelsea fourth and City second in the standings.

"I can understand (the boos) because of the rivalry in the past but the majority of the fans will understand. I am a professional and I want to do my job, I want to win for the club and I want to win with them."

Chelsea, now without a win in five league games, improved after a sluggish first half but created few openings to test City keeper Joe Hart.

It was easy to see why both teams have struggled to make an impression in the Champions League this season.

Chelsea's fate is out of their hands going into the final game and City, still unbeaten in the Premier League after 13 games, are condemned to a group-stage exit for the second successive season.

Both were solid but unspectacular and the stalemate did little to enthrall as the rain fell.

BEST CHANCE

Striker Fernando Torres, recalled by Benitez after being dropped to the bench by Di Matteo against Juve, wasted the home side's best chance when he fired over in the second half.

Defender Cesar Azpilicueta did force Hart to tip over his rasping drive late on and City, who had dominated the first half, almost won it at the death but Matija Nastasic directed a free header straight at Petr Cech.

Roberto Mancini, whose side were knocked off top spot by Manchester United's 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, said City had "lost two points".

"Games here are always hard but today we played well while missing the last pass," he said.

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"Last year we lost a good game, this year we took one point. "I am not happy but I prefer this."

Tottenham Hotspur ended a run of three successive league defeats as two goals from Jermain Defoe and one from Gareth Bale gave them a 3-1 win over West Ham United in a lively London derby at White Hart Lane.

Spurs, thumped 5-2 by Arsenal last week, bounced back in style, Defoe opening the scoring with an outstanding solo effort after cutting in from the right a minute before halftime.

Bale, who hit the underside of the bar with a thunderous shot in the first half, made it 2-0 in the 58th minute, firing home with a scuffed shot that went in off the post, before Defoe tapped into an empty net after being teed up by Aaron Lennon.

Andy Carroll scored his first goal for West Ham since his loan move from Liverpool, heading in a consolation eight minutes from time.

Southampton moved out of the bottom three with a 2-0 home victory over Newcastle United, ensuring an unhappy return to the south coast club for former Saints manager Alan Pardew, whose side are struggling to match last season's exploits which carried them to a fifth-place finish.

Adam Lallana side-footed Southampton ahead, rewarding a confident start by the hosts who struck the bar through Rickie Lambert's free kick.

Saints doubled their lead on the hour after Gaston Ramirez pounced after Tim Krul could only parry Jason Puncheon's cross.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was also unable to get one over former club Swansea City on his return to Wales as the Anfield side, with three wins in 13 league games, continued their mediocre Premier League start with a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium.

Liverpool's teenage winger Raheem Sterling went closest to breaking the deadlock when he rattled the crossbar with a rasping volley on 33 minutes. 

- Reuters

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