x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Poor start at Chelsea leaves Rafael Benitez worried

Chelsea beaten by West Ham United and Manchester United win at Reading.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Modibo Maiga of West Ham United celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at the Boleyn Ground on December 1, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** 157263831.jpg
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Modibo Maiga of West Ham United celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at the Boleyn Ground on December 1, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** 157263831.jpg

LONDON // Rafael Benitez, Chelsea's interim manager, said he was "not 100 per cent" sure his position was secure after his nightmare start to life at the club continued with a 3-1 defeat at London rivals West Ham United.

Already the first manager of the Roman Abramovich era not to oversee a victory in his opening two games under the Russian, it got worse for Benitez at Upton Park this afternoon as Chelsea made it seven Premier League games without maximum points.

Disgruntled supporters piled on the misery for the former Liverpool manager, continuing the expletive-laden chants of "You're not welcome here" that have plagued his short reign, while he was also taunted - seemingly by home fans - with "You're getting sacked in the morning".

At any other club, it would be absurd to ask questions about the manager's position after just three matches.

But it has become impossible to tell at Chelsea just when owner Abramovich might pull the trigger if he decides things are going so badly awry.

Asked if he feared he would not last very long at Stamford Bridge, Benitez - whose contract is until the end of the season - said: "I would say that it depends on the things that we can do on the pitch.

"So, if we improve on the pitch, it will be easier for everyone."

Pressed on the fact he did not sound 100 per cent sure of his position, he replied: "No, I am not 100 per cent. We didn't win today - that is the main thing."

The Spaniard all but admitted his current squad - shorn of injured stars John Terry and Frank Lampard - lacked fighting spirit.

"We have some of them," he said. "But, obviously, we have also players who are injured who will come back and they will give another character or something different."

Benitez refused to be drawn on whether Chelsea's title challenge was already over as they failed to close the seven-point gap to Manchester United ahead of the leaders' game at Reading.

Carlton Cole, the West Ham striker, credited manager Sam Allardyce for the 3-1 win. West Ham trailed to Juan Mata's opener at half-time but Allardyce brought on Mohamed Diame and his introduction changed the game.

Cole, Diame and Modibo Maiga scored the goals and the former told Sky Sports: "I've got to put it down to the gaffer's tactics, we were a bit defensive in the first half. We switched it around and put on some attacking players. Momo [Diame] came on and did brilliantly and changed the game for us."

Manchester United opened up a three-point lead on rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table after a remarkable game of two halves at the Madejski Stadium last night.

There were five goals in the first quarter of the game, seven in the first 34 minutes and none in the second half as poor defending from both sides gave the fans a 45-minute classic.

The second half was, predictably, far less eventful, as both sides tightened up defensively and United managed to hang on to their lead, despite a couple of late scares from set pieces.

Robin van Persie could have had a hat-trick as his first-half strike crossed the line, but was missed by the officials. United’s Dutch striker also shot wide with an open goal after robbing Reading keeper Adam Federici in the second period.

All three of Reading’s goals came from crosses into the box – two from corners – with United, and Jonny Evans in particular, failing to deal properly with any direct ball into the box.

Reading led 1-0 through Hal Robson-Kanu and went 3-2 ahead with Sean Morrison’s header but goals from Anderson, a Wayne Rooney double and Robin van Persie saw United go in front with only 34 minutes on the clock.

In what looks like becoming a two-horse title race United have 36 points from 15 games with City on 33. The nearest challengers are 10 points behind the leaders.

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