West Ham too strong for Chelsea

First published in Sport

PREMIER EAGUE: CHELSEA interim boss Rafael Benitez admitted he was “not 100 per cent” sure his position was secure after his nightmare start to life at the club continued with a 3-1 defeat at West Ham.

Already the first manager 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 Chelsea made it seven Premier League games without maximum points.

And Benitez got no comfort from Hammers manager Sam Allardyce. There is no love lost between Benitez and Allardyce, who said: “We don’t have sympathy for each other.

“We compete against each other, toil, play mind games and tactically have to outweigh each other. And we’ve come out on top today.”

And Allardyce suggested Benitez was in a Catch 22 situation.

“You can’t do it if the fans aren’t behind you,” he said. “But the only way you can get the fans behind you is to win. If you’re winning, the fans will always, always be behind you.”

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 at Upton Park.

Fernando Torres burst in behind onto Victor Moses’ 13th-minute through ball and coolly cut it back for Mata to sidefoot home easily, West Ham thought they had equalised in the 33rd minute through Kevin Nolan’s close-range overhead kick, but referee Martin Atkinson controversially chalked it off for a push.

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.

Allardyce sent on Matt Taylor and Mohamed Diame for James Tomkins and Gary O’Neil after what could only have been a half-time roasting.

Both had the desired effect, Carlton Cole’s header from just inside the box sailing over before he got in the way of Diame’s effort.

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

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

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

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 Modibo Maiga followed up after Taylor’s shot was parried.

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