Chelsea’s fans gave a hostile reception to new manager Rafael Benitez yesterday as the Spaniard started his tenure with a 0-0 tie against Manchester City, the defending Premier League soccer champion.
The home supporters at Stamford Bridge greeted the 52-year-old’s introduction by the stadium announcer with whistles and jeers and showed support to Roberto Di Matteo, who was fired on Nov. 21.
“I was focused on the game, I didn’t concentrate on the crowd,” former Liverpool coach Benitez told Sky Sports after Chelsea extended its winless run in the league to five matches.
In yesterday’s other games, Tottenham defeated West Ham 3-1, Southampton beat Newcastle 2-0 to climb out of the relegation positions, while Swansea City and Liverpool drew 0-0 as Brendan Rodgers returned to his former club.
Manchester United, which rallied to defeat last-place Queens Park Rangers 3-1 two days ago, remains atop the standings on 30 points, defending champion City has 29, with West Bromwich Albion on 26. Chelsea has 25 points.
Some Chelsea fans held banners in support of Di Matteo, who led the Blues to the Champions League and F.A. Cup titles last season. They also broke into applause on 16 minutes, to mark his squad number while a player for the Blues.
There was further applause at the stadium in memory of Dave Sexton, a former manager of the Blues who has died at age 82.
There were few chances in a tight first half, with City’s David Silva heading over the bar with one of the first efforts after 21 minutes.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech saved with his legs from a powerful Pablo Zabaleta shot on 37 minutes, while he easily held a header from Sergio Aguero just before halftime.
The home team started more positively in the second half, Vincent Kompany forced to cut out a dangerous cross by England fullback Ashley Cole.
Ramires then fired over the bar for Chelsea and Fernando Torres, who played under Benitez at Liverpool, blasted over from 15 yards.
Cech was unable to hold a low shot from Yaya Toure at the first attempt, but gathered before Edin Dzeko could collect the loose ball.
The goalkeeper was again involved to stop a cross from James Milner, and in injury time he held a header from City center-back Matija Nastasic.
“I’m very pleased with the players,” Benitez said. “You could see the team spirit and attitude was there.”
City missed a chance to return atop the standings but retains the only unbeaten record in the Premier League.
Jermain Defoe scored twice against former team West Ham as Tottenham ended a three-match losing run in the league.
The England striker got the opening goal just before halftime and Gareth Bale increased the home team’s advantage after 58 minutes at White Hart Lane. Defoe then got his second goal six minutes later.
West Ham, without a victory at Spurs since April 1999, did get a goal back with eight minutes remaining. Andy Carroll headed in from a cross by Joey O’Brien to end his wait for a goal since joining on loan from Liverpool in August.
Southampton climbs to 17th in the 20-team standings after recording a second straight league win. Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez scored for the Saints, who have 11 points. Aston Villa have 10 points, Reading nine, and QPR four.
Liverpool manager Rodgers watched his team extend its unbeaten league run to eight matches as he took the Reds to Swansea, his former club.
He told reporters that an effort ruled out for offside on 34 minutes, when Jose Enrique put the ball into the net from close range, should have been allowed.
“We were unfortunate with the offside goal we had ruled out, that was a goal -- I have seen it on the replay,” Rodgers said. “But we are now eight games unbeaten and we are chipping away and our method was good.”
Two days ago, West Brom won 4-2 at Sunderland, Aston Villa tied 0-0 against Arsenal, and Wigan beat Reading 3-2. Stoke beat Fulham 1-0, while Everton and Norwich tied 1-1.