From bad to worse for Benitez as Chelsea flunk derby examination
West Ham Utd 3 Chelsea Utd 1:The chant went up from those in the lower tier of the Trevor Brooking Stand while the rest of the arena was bouncing in frenzied celebration at Mohamed Diame’s clinical finish.
“Roman Abramovich, is this what you want?” asked the visiting contingent, their plaintive chorus a lament wailed at an absent owner in desperate, confused times. This club is unravelling and no one, even the oligarch, appears to know how to restore sense.
Abramovich was not present in the East End on Saturday but he will be painfully aware of his team’s toils in his absence.
There is concern eating away at the board that the decision to remove Roberto Di Matteo and impose Rafael Benitez upon this squad has not had an instantly beneficial impact.
Also there is fury at the second-half disintegration to a reinvigorated West Ham that was just as sloppy and slapdash as the collapse to Juventus under the previous manager.
Or, indeed, the obliteration endured at Napoli under Di Matteo’s predecessor. If the solidity of the interim first-team manager’s first two games in charge had hinted at improvement, that mirage has faded.
This is already the club’s worst league run for 17 years.
The days to come could see the European champions dispatched to the Europa League regardless of how they fare at home to Nordsjaelland, with Benitez and his 23-man squad due to fly to Japan from Newcastle airport after Saturday’s game at Sunderland to compete at the Fifa Club World Cup. They might have slipped into mid-table by the time they return.
The team is bereft of leadership in the continued absence of John Terry and Frank Lampard. Both players will train with the first team today as they recover from knee and calf injuries respectively.
But neither is expected to feature on Wearside and without the pair Chelsea are horribly brittle.
Juan Mata, who had opened the scoring back when the visitors were dominant, was the nearest they had to a resistance leader here as the game veered away from them after the break but his free-kick cannoned off the woodwork. Thereafter, there was no one in the ranks capable of wresting back control.
Chelsea shrunk as the game progressed, Diame and Carlton Cole bullying them into submission as West Ham summoned belief, urgency and drive. Ramires and Mikel John Obi were eclipsed, the visiting defence unprotected and unnerved.
Cole’s equaliser was fortunate given his wrestling of Branislav Ivanovic, but Chelsea could offer no resistance against Diame and Modibo Maiga late on.
“They didn’t show as much resilience as they needed to overcome what we were doing,” said Sam Allardyce. “They’re missing John Terry. They’re missing leadership.”
Benitez was left to sift through the debris.
“I knew it was a challenge but I’m sure the team is good enough to win things and, if we win matches, everyone will be happier. Things will change.”
That may be true, though change at Chelsea generally only means one thing.