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Dec 1, 2012

West Ham keeps Rafael Benitez winless

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea nightmare continued Saturday as West Ham hit back to win 3-1, inflicting Benitez's first defeat in charge and extending his winless start as interim manager.

Already the first boss 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 on Saturday as the Blues made it seven Premier League games without maximum points.

Juan Mata appeared to ease the pressure on the former Liverpool boss by ending the European champions' five-hour, 34-minute goal drought after 13 minutes.

But the visitors squandered several chances to score again and were deservedly made to pay through a controversial Carlton Cole equalizer and goals from substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga.

West Ham fans taunted Benitez with, "You're getting sacked in the morning", while the torrent of abuse from Chelsea supporters also continued.

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 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 percent sure of his position, he replied: "No, I am not 100 percent. We didn't win today -- that is the main thing."

There were early warning signs for Chelsea, with a defense reshaped by David Luiz's suspension failing its first real test in the 10th minute when a straight free kick from James Collins sailed over everyone to Winston Reid, whose header across goal was scrambled to safety by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Fernando Torres was dropping into midfield to get involved with mixed results but it was the return of his striking instincts that helped Chelsea end its longest goal drought of the Abramovich era.

The Spaniard burst in behind onto Victor Moses' 13th-minute through ball and coolly cut it back for Mata to sidefoot home easily.

Benitez kept his promise not to celebrate the first goal of his reign, which did not spare him chants of "One Di Matteo" and "You're not welcome here" from the visiting fans, along with the ubiquitous "Rafa Out" banner.

Chelsea should have given its supporters something else to cheer about, but Moses horribly missed his 20th-minute finish from Ramires' pass.

And after Cole -- in for the injured Andy Carroll -- saw a shot blocked, Ramires and Torres blew a four-on-two break, the latter skying his finish to spark the inevitable "What a waste of money" chants.

West Ham was also causing problems and thought it had equalized in the 33rd minute through Kevin Nolan's close-range overhead kick, but referee Martin Atkinson controversially chalked it off for a push.

Mata could have made it 2-0 in the 40th minute when he fired Moses' cutback too close to Jussi Jaaskelainen and saw his follow-up blocked by Joey O'Brien.

The home side had the final attempt of the first half when Petr Cech was booked for punching the ball clear outside his area the goalkeeper redeeming himself by tipping Nolan's header over the bar from the resultant free kick.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce had seen enough by the break, sending on Matt Taylor and Diame for James Tomkins and Gary O'Neil after what could only have been a halftime roasting.

Both had the desired effect, as Cole's header from just inside the box sailed over before he got in the way of Diame's effort.

Chelsea's defending became more desperate, with Branislav Ivanovic getting a vital touch to prevent Cole turning in Nolan's pass after Cech went AWOL.

An equalizer looked only a matter of time and it arrived in the 63rd minute in controversial fashion.

Matt Jarvis' cross looped up off Azpilicueta and Cole climbed all over Ivanovic to nod it in, with Chelsea's protests only resulting in a booking for John Obi Mikel.

Mayhem ensued and Jarvis tested Cech before the visitors surged down the other end, with Torres scuffing a glorious rebound chance straight at Jaaskelainen after the keeper saved from Eden Hazard.

Mark Noble was booked for clattering into Ramires and Mata almost added further punishment when he hit the inside of the post with a brilliant free kick.

Moses appealed in vain for a penalty under Taylor's challenge and Hazard failed to chip Jaaskelainen after the keeper threw the ball straight to him.

Oscar immediately replaced the Belgian but West Ham was still on top and Moses soon departed for Marko Marin.

Although Chelsea enjoyed some pressure, it was almost undone when Noble sent Jarvis clear and Cech came to the rescue again.

Ashley Cole did likewise from the resultant corner, nodding Reid's header off the line but West Ham was not to be denied.

With four minutes remaining, a throw-in found its way to Carlton Cole, who laid the ball off to Diame to drill home and it got worse in stoppage time when fellow substitute Maiga followed up after Taylor's shot was parried.

Torres had the final say with a header that was saved but it was already too late.

"The first half we could score two or three goals, finish the game, and it would be totally different. We didn't do it," Benitez said. "The second half, we didn't start well, they were on top of us and then we couldn't manage. It is difficult to explain when you are so good in the first half, how can you not manage in the second half?"

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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