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Stoke's own goals give under-fire Benitez something to smile about

Date

Oliver Brown

Forceful … Chelsea's Frank Lampard.

Forceful … Chelsea's Frank Lampard. Photo: Reuters

CHELSEA are discovering that life on the road can be every bit as invigorating as Jack Kerouac suggested. Away from suffocating tensions on the home front at Stamford Bridge, where supporters have hardly helped inspire the team with recent mutinous chants, Rafael Benitez's players extended their prolific away form to nine goals in two games while inflicting on Stoke City the club's heaviest home defeat in the Premier League.

True, they were aided by a performance of nightmarish misfortune by Stoke's Jonathan Walters, who scored two own goals before fluffing his opportunity of a reprieve as he missed a late penalty. Benitez smiled at being asked when he had last seen such a remarkably gaffe-prone individual display.

''We had one of our own last week,'' he said, recalling Branislav Ivanovic's two wretched defensive lapses against Swansea, the memories of which were emphatically expunged by this decisive victory.

Fans voice their feelings on Rafa Benitez.

Fans voice their feelings on Rafa Benitez. Photo: AP

Such is the febrile atmosphere around Chelsea this season that their every result is scrutinised for some portent of Benitez's future.

''We can't every week be thinking, 'Crisis, not a crisis','' argued the interim manager.

Chelsea stand third in the Premier League, not that you would have known it from the fans' now-familiar song repertoire of ''We don't care about Rafa'' and ''There's only one Di Matteo''.

Benitez was evasive when pressed on whether his side felt more relaxed away from south-west London, but there was no mistaking his satisfaction at a win that rekindled the club's faint vestiges of hope for the title.

In a veiled broadside at his predecessor, Roberto Di Matteo, he was not shy of advertising Chelsea's resurgence under his watch: ''We are conceding fewer goals than in the past. We are also scoring more, which means we have more balance.''

He had primed his men for the particularly physical test at the Britannia Stadium, but he could not have foreseen the gifts that arrived courtesy of the hapless Walters.

His afternoon had begun inauspiciously, when Walters set himself for an extravagant volley and proceeded to boot the ball straight into his own face, and from there his afternoon took ever more darkly comic turns. He headed Cesar Azpilicueta's cross into his own net on the stroke of half-time and then, remarkably, he contrived to repeat the trick early in the second half when he nodded in Juan Mata's corner. Walters was handed the opportunity to redeem himself by taking a penalty with his team already 4-0 down, and promptly skied his attempt over the bar.

There appeared no hole in the Britannia pitch large enough to swallow him, even if Tony Pulis offered a few consoling words. ''Jon's all right,'' the Stoke manager assured. ''We look after people at this club.''

Positive messages abounded for Benitez's team, not least the Frank Lampard penalty that took the midfielder clear of Kerry Dixon as the club's second-highest all-time leading scorer, with 194 goals.

Nine more and Lampard can usurp Bobby Tambling at the top of the list, even if this looks unlikely to dissuade Roman Abramovich from his plan to offload the 34 year-old in the summer. There was also a return from injury for John Terry, who came through the final 10 minutes of the match unscathed, despite handing Stoke their penalty for his late foul on Walters.

Pulis was involved in a lively exchange of words with referee Andre Marriner, claiming that Chelsea did not deserve their penalty when Mata went to ground in a tangle with Robert Huth. ''I was just a bit disappointed with a couple of things that went on, let's leave it at that,'' he said.

Seldom was he more dismayed than upon seeing Walters undo all Stoke's first-half resistance. The striker had been under pressure from Mata as he sought to defend a ball whipped in by Azpilicueta, but succeeded only in redirecting it past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Any ambition Stoke had of a comeback was soon snuffed out by poor Walters, who intercepted Mata's corner with another fine header, unfortunately in the wrong direction. ''It killed us off,'' admitted Pulis, who watched helplessly as Lampard lashed home his penalty, before Eden Hazard produced a moment of inspiration from 25 metres.

Telegraph, London

Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs NEW Stats
SYD 1 vs HRT 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs PER 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3 vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5 vs HRT 2 Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4 vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2 vs PER Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2 vs CCM Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL Stats
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
ADE vs SYD Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs HRT 3 Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
SYD vs VIC Stats
PER 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
HRT 2 vs CCM 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs BRI Stats
PER 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
HRT 1 vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs PER 1 Stats
WSW 1 vs SYD 1 Stats
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 5 vs HRT 1 Stats
NEW 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1 vs PER 2 Stats
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW Stats
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs BRI Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 1 Stats
PER 2 vs NEW Stats
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs SYD 3 Stats
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 3 vs HRT 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs VIC Stats
PER 4 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 2 Stats
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs WSW 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs PER 1 Stats
SYD vs ADE 3 Stats
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3 vs BRI 3 Stats
VIC 1 vs NEW Stats
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs HRT 5 Stats
BRI vs SYD Stats
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW Stats
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3 vs BRI Stats
CCM 2 vs HRT Stats
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 7 vs NEW Stats
CCM 1 vs SYD 5 Stats
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 3 vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs HRT Stats
PER 1 vs SYD 3 Stats
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2 vs WEL Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs HRT Stats
NEW 1 vs WSW 1 Stats
SYD 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD 4 vs CCM 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2 vs NEW 2 Stats
HRT vs PER Stats
Wed, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs VIC 19:40Suncorp Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT 3 vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM Stats
WSW 3 vs SYD 4 Stats
PER 2 vs BRI 2 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL 3 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2 vs ADE Stats
VIC 1 vs PER 1 Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs HRT Stats
BRI 1 vs WSW Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
HRT 4 vs NEW Stats
PER 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 5 vs BRI 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs HRT 1 Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
PER vs WSW 21:30nib Stadium
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 15:00Westpac Stadium
NEW vs ADE 17:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs CCM 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs HRT 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs VIC 17:00Westpac Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PER 17:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs NEW 19:40AAMI Park
PER vs SYD 21:45nib Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE vs BRI 17:00Coopers Stadium
CCM vs WSW 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
HRT vs WEL 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs CCM 17:30Westpac Stadium
NEW vs SYD 19:45Hunter Stadium
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW vs ADE 17:00Pirtek Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER vs HRT 17:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:40Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW vs PER 17:00Pirtek Stadium
ADE vs HRT 19:30Coopers Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs SYD 15:00Westpac Stadium
VIC vs CCM 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 28
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
vs 15:00TBC
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
vs 15:00TBC
View All Fixtures
Round 29
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
vs 15:00TBC
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
vs 16:00TBC
View All Fixtures
Round 30
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
vs 16:00TBC
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Wellington Phoenix 22 13 6 16 42
Melbourne Victory 22 11 3 19 41
Sydney FC 22 10 4 10 38
Perth Glory 22 10 4 7 38
Adelaide United 22 11 7 12 37
Melbourne City FC 22 8 8 -1 30
Brisbane Roar 21 7 10 -5 25
Central Coast Mariners 23 4 11 -17 20
View all
 
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