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Football Whispers

City tie mars Rafa Benitez's Blues debut

Rafa Benitez endured a hostile reception and gave the restless Chelsea fans nothing to cheer about as his first match in charge ended in a drab 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Sunday.

Three days after Chelsea replaced Roberto Di Matteo with Benitez, there was no sign of improvement from a team which has only one win in its past five Premier League matches.

"He is here to try to change things to put us in a winning mode ... and he needs to get a chance to prove he's worth (it) to have a chance," Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "We have a new start."

But the meeting of the champions of England (City) and Europe (Chelsea) failed to produce any real attacking moments of note.

Fernando Torres was restored to Chelsea's starting lineup but the misfiring striker, who was so prolific under Benitez at Liverpool, squandered his only meaningful chance in the second half.

Chelsea dropped to fourth below West Bromwich Albion, while City remains unbeaten but lost top spot to Manchester United, which leads by one point.

"Today was about starting from zero again and getting a positive result ... 0-0 against the champions is not a bad result," Cech said.

But it is was the intense venom directed by Chelsea fans at Benitez that provided the most memorable moments and revealed their verdict on the ninth managerial change of Roman Abramovich's nine years in charge.

"My experience in England is that when the fans are singing I don't understand what they say," said Benitez, who managed Liverpool from 2004-10.

Perhaps the only thing that can appease the home fans who are angry that their Champions League-winning manager was fired is that Benitez's "interim" position was highlighted in the match program and team sheet.

The on-pitch announcer had to plead with the fans to mute their dissent so that tribute could be paid to former manager Dave Sexton, who died on Saturday.

But after a minute's applause, the Chelsea fans turned on Benitez again with chants of, "We don't want you here," while "Rafa Out" banners appeared in the ground.

"How many people do you need to write a banner? One," Benitez said. "And maybe two to hold it."

The action in the stands was livelier than on the pitch.

It took 20 minutes for the first scoring chance, with David Silva heading over the bar, while Sergio Aguero went close at the end of the first half.

Chelsea imposed itself more after the break, with Ramires firing over from 25 yards (meters) and David Luiz off target with a header.

Torres was starved for service and cut an isolated figure up front, rarely looking like scoring his fifth league goal of the season.

His only opening came after Juan Mata and Eden Hazard combined to set up the Spain striker, who blasted over in the 61st.

"You could see he was trying hard -- the team has to help Fernando create more chances to score goals," Benitez said.

City goalkeeper Joe Hart only had one key save to make, palming a strike from Ashley Cole over the bar late on, although the home fans were annoyed that a corner wasn't awarded.

For close to the first time in the game, referee Chris Foy was the target of the Chelsea fans' anger rather than their own manager.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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