Derision rains down on Benitez on night of misery at Bridge
WHOEVER Roman Abramovich's back-up was should Pep Guardiola resist his advances, it surely cannot have been Plan B for Benitez.
Rafa may not be keeping the Stamford Bridge dugout warm for his compatriot any more, but the Spaniard's prospects of staying on himself receded even further last night as Chelsea let slip a two-goal lead at home to Southampton.
Coming on top of home defeats by Queen's Park Rangers and Swansea the chants of "We don't want you here" that followed the interim first team manager down the tunnel were inevitable, especially after Benitez added to the enmity towards him by replacing Frank Lampard with Fernando Torres as Chelsea sought a winner, a decision greeted with widespread boos.
Stamford Bridge's lowest crowd of the league season had been more benevolent earlier as Demba Ba and Eden Hazard scored before the break, but Southampton, beaten 5-1 at home by Chelsea in the FA Cup 11 days prior, rallied to level through Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon.
"We didn't take our chances, we gave them hope they could score, and they did," said Benitez. "We have to be more clinical. The next game (at home to Arsenal) has to be totally different. We have to defend better as a unit.
"We had situations where we could score. We didn't and they broke on a counter-attack. I was talking to the team at half-time, trying to say 'We have to score a third goal'.
"I think for us we cannot be happy drawing at home. I am disappointed. When you know your players and what they can do it is disappointing.
"We have to think how we can improve for the next one."
On top of their frustration at Chelsea drawing, the Stamford Bridge faithful were also taking in the news that Pep Guardiola was bound for Bayern Munich not the King's Road.
Benitez, though, had little to say on the matter.
"It is fine for him because he decides to go there," Benitez said.
Asked if it was a surprise, he added: "No. My job is to get three points against Arsenal."
Benitez added that his team lacked experience to deal with the pressure after Southampton scored, but said he had not brought John Terry off the bench as the captain "was not match fit". Terry, he indicated, was unlikely to start against Arsenal.
After Chelsea beat Southampton 5-1 in the FA Cup less than two weeks ago the Saints arrived at Stamford Bridge with a different game-plan.
Boss Nigel Adkins urged them not to panic at the interval and they delivered, a draw moving them three points clear of the relegation zone.
"We know Chelsea are a good side. We knew if we opened up the space they have players who can hurt you," Adkins said.
"We came with a game-plan to be compact and frustrate the opposition. At half-time it was 2-0 and I said 'stick to the game-plan'.
"If we had gone and chased it there was every chance we could have ended up with a scoreline like Aston Villa, who conceded eight here.
"We stuck at it. Rickie came on and scored the goal and what a fantastic goal it was for the second one. "Not many teams will come back from two goals down against Chelsea."