x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Premier League Round-Up: Rafael Benitez carries different tune

Demba Ba scores lone goal in 28th minute as Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez praises the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's Demba Ba celebrates after scoring the match's lone goal against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge Stadium on Saturday. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Chelsea's Demba Ba celebrates after scoring the match's lone goal against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge Stadium on Saturday. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

LONDON // Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez praised the Stamford Bridge atmosphere on Saturday and the performance of his players after making a victorious return home following his midweek criticism of his club's supporters.

Demba Ba's 28th-minute goal saw Chelsea move back above Tottenham Hotspur – who host Arsenal on Sunday – to third place in the Premier League table.

Chelsea's fifth win in seven matches came at the end of a week in which Benitez's criticisms of the fans and his title of "interim" manager following the FA Cup win at Middlesbrough led to speculation his caretaker appointment could come to a premature end.

"I was really pleased with the performance on the pitch and the atmosphere was really good," said Benitez, who was smiling afterwards."The [West Brom] keeper [Ben Foster] was man of the match, for me. That means a lot."

Much of the focus was on the Spaniard after his midweek deviation from measured politician to ranting rabble-rouser. Due to his prior association with Liverpool, Benitez's temporary appointment was never a popular one, but he hoped the crowd would use their energies to back the team.

They came with handmade banners - "The Interim One" and "Rafa Benitez we're just not that inter im" among them - and chanted the names of his immediate predecessor Roberto Di Matteo as well as Jose Mourinho.

Benitez anticipated questions over the atmosphere.

"Before you start asking about the fans and the reaction, I will say I was really pleased with the fans behind the team," he said.

Everton 3, Reading 1 Everton defender Phil Jagielka had surgery last night on a badly gashed ankle, marring a comfortable victory over struggling Reading. The England international was injured in a challenge from Adam Le Fondre in the opening minutes and was immediately replaced. Manager David Moyes said: “It didn’t look good. Jagielka knew about it and it is a bad one.”

Southampton 1, QPR 2 QPR may have picked up only their third league win but Harry Redknapp was furious after the game, accusing an agent of leaking false information. Reports alleged the club’s Dubai camp last month was marred by ill-discipline and drinking. “It was a disgusting story in the paper,” he said. “It was completely full of untruths ... I know where the story come from and they are trying to make problems for the club.”

Stoke City 0, West Ham United 1 West Ham ended a run of five straight league away defeats as Jack Collison’s strike secured them all three points at Stoke. In a first half of few chances, West Ham defender James Collins’s header clipped the bar before Collison netted in stoppage time, finishing on the turn after collecting a pass from his fellow substitute Ricardo Vaz Te. Stoke substitute Charlie Adam almost equalised in added time with a volley against the crossbar.

Swansea City 1, Newcastle United 0 Luke Moore struck a late winner to give Swansea the perfect homecoming against Newcastle at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea, who have spent the last six days celebrating their Capital One Cup success, looked set to be frustrated after missing a host of excellent chances. But Moore got his first Premier League goal of the season from close range five minutes from time as he prodded home, with the help of a deflection.

Wigan Athletic 0, Liverpool 4 Luis Suarez scored his second Premier League hat-trick of the season to move ahead of Robin van Persie as the league’s top scorer on 21 goals. Stewart Downing opened the scoring with a header before the Uruguayan took centre stage. He curled a shot past Ali Al Habsi for his first before his free kick went in via a deflection for his second. His third shortly after half time from a Glen Johnson pass.


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