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Mar 2, 2013

Benitez praises Chelsea fans

Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez refused to rise to the bait offered by reporters who goaded him in his post-match press conference following his side's 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

• Delaney: Benitez beats the boo-boys
• Blog: Trio divert Rafa spotlight

After Benitez launched his infamous tirade against Chelsea supporters and the club's hierarchy following his side's FA Cup win against Middlesbrough last Wednesday, the Blues boss was on his best behaviour as he fended off probing questions in the Stamford Bridge press room.

Benitez even offered some guarded praise of the Chelsea fans, despite being the subject of several chants calling for him to leave the club once again.

"I was really pleased that the fans got behind the team and the reaction from everyone was good," Benitez stated. "I don't know if my words had an effect. You could see the players playing with more confidence. I didn't say the fans were not behind the team before. I say today, the fans were behind the team.

"I am a professional, I have passion for football. I enjoy the job as a manager and trying to win games every week. We have ten games left to play, we are in a good position and we have confidence that we can finish in the top three."

Benitez went on to mutter the same comments time and again in a repetitive tone, as reporters tried in vain to get him to respond to the chants calling for Jose Mourinho to return to Chelsea, as he insisted he 'enjoyed' his experience on the Stamford Bridge touchline.

"The main thing was the team, winning the three points," he insisted. "This was a great performance. Good passes, great opportunities created, their keeper was man of the match. The atmosphere was very good. Let's enjoy this victory. We are in a good position to finish in the top four."

Benitez was equally dismissive of questions surrounding the position of club captain John Terry, who was left on the bench once again.

"We had seven players on the bench," he added. "Everyone was available and you have to manage the team. He was not playing before because he was injured, now he is fit and my job is to manage the team."

West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke insisted his team were not affected by the turmoil that has surrounded Chelsea in recent days, as he was left frustrated by his side's failure to create clear cut chances.

"When you play the top teams, you have to stay in the game for as long as possible and we did that, but we couldn't create anything clear cut," stated Clarke. "You could feel the tension in the crowd at the end, but we didn't get the break we needed.

"Chelsea are a top team, make no mistake about it. They have some top players and we were right in the game until the end."

Clarke went on to insist striker Peter Odemwingie has a 'big part to play' in his squad for the remainder of the season, after the striker who tried to leave the club on transfer deadline day in January made a positive impact coming off the bench in the closing stages at Stamford Bridge.

"The Peter Odemwingie saga is over as far as we are concerned," Clarke said. "He is a key member of our squad and he has a big part to play for the rest of our season. You can speak, speak and speak about Peter. We have closed the door on the matter and I hope everyone else does now."

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