Insipid Chelsea fail to shift bitter mood in the stands
Chelsea, though, were helped by the fact that the opposition lacked their usual thrust. Mancini began the match with Edin Dzeko partnering Aguero, but it did not work and, on the back of last week’s Real Madrid tie, it is easy to understand sometimes why the Bosnian mostly plays as a substitute.
Carlos Tevez could not add incisiveness when he was brought on to replace Dzeko, and Mario Balotelli’s only contribution of note when he came on was a yellow card for running into David Luiz and then going down holding his face. The referee, Chris Foy, thought it was all an act.
City did, however, have the better chances. Pablo Zabaleta, always willing to break forward from right-back, set up David Silva for an unmarked header he flashed over the crossbar after 21 minutes. Aguero, usually a more clinical finisher in the air, wasted his best chance shortly before the interval. The second half was even less productive but Matija Nastasic could have won it at the death from Silva’s corner. The ball went straight into Petr Cech’s hands and the chance to go top of the league was gone.
Chelsea’s performance could probably be summed up by the fact that they only had one real effort on goal – a free-kick from 35 yards that David Luiz directed straight at Hart.
Benitez’s only praise for Torres was that he was “trying very hard” but he must be alarmed that the world-beater he managed at Liverpool has deteriorated to this point. The striker’s one chance, a left-foot effort just after the hour, was lashed over the crossbar.
Torres, in fairness, was not the only one to struggle on a day that will be memorable only for the way Benitez was informed, through a series of mutinous outbursts, about the depth of feeling against his appointment. It was a soundtrack of contempt and it was difficult not to get the sense that this will not be the only time he has to grit his teeth and try to block it all out.