Featured Matches
Previous
Valencia
Malaga
3
0
FT
Game Details
FC Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund
2
3
FT
Game Details
Marseille
Nice
4
0
FT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
Houston Dynamo
0
0
LIVE 17'
Game Details
Getafe
Almeria
1
0
FT
Game Details
Getafe
Almeria
1
0
FT
Game Details
Valencia
Malaga
3
0
FT
Game Details
FC Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund
2
3
FT
Game Details
Marseille
Nice
4
0
FT
Game Details
Perugia
Bologna
2
1
FT
Game Details
FC Union Berlin
Nurnberg
0
4
FT
Game Details
FSV Frankfurt
RB Leipzig
0
0
FT
Game Details
VfR Aalen
Kaiserslautern
2
2
FT
Game Details
AJ Auxerre
Valenciennes
1
2
FT
Game Details
Ajaccio GFCO
Troyes
0
4
FT
Game Details
Chateauroux
Orléans
0
0
FT
Game Details
Le Havre AC
Créteil
1
1
FT
Game Details
Nimes
Arles
2
2
FT
Game Details
Niort
Clermont Foot
0
0
FT
Game Details
Sochaux
Dijon FCO
0
1
FT
Game Details
Stade Laval
AC Ajaccio
0
0
FT
Game Details
Go Ahead Eagles
Willem II Tilburg
1
0
FT
Game Details
Achilles '29
Fortuna Sittard
0
3
FT
Game Details
FC Den Bosch
Jong Ajax
2
0
FT
Game Details
Helmond Sport
NEC Nijmegen
1
4
FT
Game Details
Jong PSV
FC Eindhoven
1
3
FT
Game Details
RKC Waalwijk
Jong FC Twente
1
2
FT
Game Details
SC Stormvogels Telstar
Almere City
3
1
FT
Game Details
Sparta Rotterdam
FC Volendam
0
5
FT
Game Details
VVV Venlo
FC Emmen VV
1
4
FT
Game Details
Academica de Coimbra
Vitoria Setubal
1
1
FT
Game Details
Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast
Terek Grozny
0
1
FT
Game Details
Balikesirspor
Akhisar Belediye
1
2
FT
Game Details
Caykur Rizespor
Genclerbirligi
1
1
FT
Game Details
KAA Gent
KV Kortrijk
0
1
FT
Game Details
Helsingborg
Halmstad
1
4
FT
Game Details
Orebro SK
Brommapojkarna
3
1
FT
Game Details
Athlone Town FC
Cork
2
2
FT
Game Details
Bray
UCD
2
0
FT
Game Details
Derry City
St Patricks
0
1
FT
Game Details
Dundalk
Bohemians
3
2
FT
Game Details
Limerick FC
Drogheda Utd
0
3
FT
Game Details
Shamrock
Sligo
1
0
FT
Game Details
Glenavon
Ballymena
2
1
FT
Game Details
Coleraine
Portadown
0
0
FT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
Houston Dynamo
0
0
LIVE 17'
Game Details
Queretaro
Monterrey
0
1
LIVE 62'
Game Details
Tijuana
U. de G.
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Aberystwyth
Bangor City
3
3
FT
Game Details
Carmarthen
Port Talbot
2
1
FT
Game Details
Newi Cefn Druids
Connah's Quay
3
2
FT
Game Details
Airbus UK
Newtown
3
0
FT
Game Details
T.N.S.
Rhyl
6
1
FT
Game Details
Fort Lauderdale Strikers
San Antonio Scorpions
2
0
FT
Game Details
Unión de Santa Fe
Crucero del Norte
3
0
FT
Game Details
Huracán
Patronato
0
1
FT
Game Details
Instituto de Córdoba
Ferro Carril Oeste
1
1
FT
Game Details
Independiente Rivadavia
Atlético Tucumán
0
0
FT
Game Details
Temperley
Sp. Belgrano
1
0
FT
Game Details
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
San Martín de San Juan
1
0
LIVE 53'
Game Details
Atlante
At. San Luis
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Coras Tepic
Lobos BUAP
1:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Joinville
Oeste
2
1
FT
Game Details
Sampaio Correa-MA
América Mineiro
0
0
FT
Game Details
Santa Cruz FC
Goianiense
2
0
FT
Game Details
Arica
Palestino
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
12 de Octubre
Nacional
Postp
Game Details
Bidvest Wits
Moroka Swallows
3
0
FT
Game Details
Chippa United
Ajax Cape Town
1
1
FT
Game Details
Next
Mar 2, 2013

Benitez beats the boo-boys

If ructions represent normality at Stamford Bridge, it was perhaps oddly appropriate that the day when rage was supposed to reach unprecedented heights that it all felt so flat and routine.

In the end the anger wasn't excessive and the performance wasn't exceptional, but the feared equaliser from West Brom never materialised.

Instead, Chelsea achieved the kind of home win that they would have expected, and the fans could breathe a sigh of relief that they remain on course for what should be a comfortable place in the top four.

Within all that, there were the general traits that we've come to associate with both Rafa Benitez's career at Chelsea and in general.

• Evans: Hoodoos, mistakes and positives for Baggies
• Lythell: Three amigos divert spotlight from Benitez

Once his team went into the lead, he attempted to take "control" of the game rather than command of it, and there were a few substitutions which brought surprise. The result also brought a smile to Benitez's face. He entered his post-match press conference beaming.

When asked about that, the Spaniard insisted such happiness was the generally the case with him, saying: "Normally I am smiling. Normally!"

He wasn't, of course, on Wednesday at Middlesbrough. But, given that the anticipated cauldron of Stamford Bridge was at a mild heat rather than madly bubbling over and that the fans seemed to almost self-consciously resist the expectation they would be apoplectic, it could even have been argued that Benitez's tactic worked.

"I don't know," he said. "But I could see the players playing with more confidence and the fans behind the team. I will not talk too much about that but it was very good, very positive."

Well, as routine as the day went, it would be wrong to say it was completely positive. Part of the routine here now, after all, is negative chanting. And, other than at least six anti-Benitez banners, there were a number of very pointed chants - none more so than 'Rafa Benitez, we'll sing what we want'.

Indeed, there was a darkly comic moment in the second half when the home crowd implored each other to "stand up" if they hated the manager, only for Benitez himself to jump to his feet.

At the least, that proved it isn't just a stock deflection any time he insists he doesn't notice the chants because he is concentrating on his team.

His attempt at blocking it all out completely did reach a rather extreme turn, though, when asked about the very loud Jose Mourinho songs. "I was thinking about Demba Ba scoring the goal," he said.

That 28th-minute strike itself was the very essence of routine: a rehearsed set-piece. Oscar collected a short-corner, crossed for David Luiz and the defender nodded back for Ba to tap in.

Ben Foster could perhaps have done better for the goal but, had he been anything off top form for the rest of the game, it could have been much worse for West Brom and so much better for Chelsea.

The goalkeeper made a series of fine saves that had Steve Clarke being asked about the England position afterwards, and that only reflected the fact that Chelsea often rose well above the mundane. There were intervals when they were genuinely excellent, with Juan Mata once more a model of gloriously fluid influence. His touches both decorated and drove the game.

They still weren't enough, however, to completely decide it. Once again, it was as if Chelsea looked to just manage the game rather than make it certain.

Therein lies particular danger for Benitez and raises a few fair questions of his restrained approach. Because, given their recent history of blowing leads late on against lesser sides as well as the obvious apprehension - and potential for anger from the crowd - this was where West Brom could derive a bit of joy. It almost came to pass.

Although Steve Clarke insisted he hadn't mentioned the crowd to the team beforehand - in a clear attempt to deflect any questions about Benitez rather than Benitez - his actual explanation indicated otherwise and one West Brom player confirmed as much afterwards off the record. They wanted to maximise that sense of malice.

Clarke, for his part, didn't quite put it like that, saying: "We just spoke about the fact that, when you play a top team, you have to stay in the game as long as possible. The momentum can swing, the atmosphere becomes a bit nervous.

"We stayed in the game until the last minute today but couldn't quite get clear cut chances. You could feel the tension in the crowd."

That was certainly the case when Petr Cech had to make a desperate double save, or when Foster went up for a last-minute corner. For all the general chaos at Stamford Bridge, he couldn't cause sufficient havoc to force an equaliser.

Chelsea had done just enough. Benitez, meanwhile, had seemingly said enough. When asked whether he lost his temper on Wednesday, he disregarded it again, saying: "I'm trying to enjoy today after winning."

Enjoyment: a rare feeling at Stamford Bridge of late.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.