The new Chelsea manager's first game in charge ends in a tepid draw on an afternoon memorable only for his extraordinary reception from the home fans.
Benitez faced genuine and sustained opposition from large swatches of the home support as they made clear their anger at the former Liverpool manager succeeding the popular Roberto Di Matteo.
Moreover, the Spaniard was unable to provide instant alchemy to the team, as Chelsea mustered only a single shot on target in a match dominated by defenses.
In front of the watching Roman Abramovich, perhaps Benitez’s only achievement was that new-look center back pair David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic had managed to keep the Premier League champion so quiet.
The draw leaves Chelsea five points adrift of leader Manchester United, while City finishes the weekend in second place after failing to make its domination of the play and scoring opportunities count.
However, it was extraordinary reception received by Benitez that was the main talking point on an afternoon when the drama in the stands far exceeded that on the pitch.
It took the pitch side announcer passing on the news of former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton’s death at the age of 82 to end the thunderous jeers and chants of ‘Only One Di Matteo’ that had greeted Benitez’s introduction as the new manager.
In the early exchanges, Chelsea’s key attackers lacked accuracy with their passing and were easily smothered by the visitors.
Roberto Mancini, whose name was sung loudly by City’s traveling support at regular intervals, would have been satisfied that his team looked far more organized than of late, while also counterattacking with some purpose.
But the champion of England failed to make their dominance count against the champion of Europe in a flat opening period, with Sergio Aguero and David Silva wasting excellent headed opportunities to put their team ahead.
Both defenses continued to be on top in the second half, with Chelsea not creating a genuine opportunity until 60 minutes had been played.
Torres, once the most feared marksman in Europe under Benitez, had the chance to resurrect one of the most profitable striker-manager alliances of recent times in emphatic fashion.
But, in keeping with his Chelsea career, the forward fired a half-volley narrowly over the bar after the ball had sat up well for him inside the box following good interplay from Eden Hazard and Juan Mata.In terms of entertainment, that was about it as both attacks were sorely lacking.
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