Rafa targets first win

Rafael Benitez yesterday admitted Chelsea were desperate for a goal but insisted scoring in their Premier League game at West Ham would mean nothing if they did not win.

Interim manager Benitez has yet to witness either event in his two matches in charge, successive 0-0 draws with Manchester City and Fulham, results which only served to compound the supporter revolt.

Supporters have voiced their opposition to Benitez’s appointment and displayed banners protesting at the club’s choice of replacement for Roberto Di Matteo.

Chelsea also failed to find the net in Di Matteo’s final game, ensuring a run of three matches without scoring for the first time since Roman Abramovich bought the club.

Benitez is the first boss of the Abramovich era not to win either of his opening two games and it was the latter statistic that more worried the Spaniard ahead of today’s trip to Upton Park.

Asked if the first goal of his reign would come as a relief, he said: “More to win than score.

“We are close in terms of what we are trying to achieve in attack.

“Scoring will give us all confidence. The team needs to score and to win.”

Chelsea’s five-hour, 21-minute goal drought can be blamed partly on an even longer famine for Fernando Torres, who has found the net only once in almost two months.

In the Premier League alone, the £50 million man has now gone 10 hours, 49 minutes without scoring, with the arrival of his former boss at Liverpool doing little to improve his fortunes.

Benitez admitted this week that Torres had lost some of the lightning pace that made him one of the best strikers in the world.

That prompted former 4x100 metres Olympic champion Darren Campbell to offer to coach the 28-year-old in the art of sprinting, having worked briefly with the Spaniard last year.

But Benitez, who has prescribed Torres weight-training sessions in order to improve his strength, said: “It’s interesting to have different ideas, but we have very good staff here.

“It’s different running and running with the ball on the pitch, 11 v 11.

“[World Cup-winning manager Cesar Luis] Minotti, a famous Argentinian coach, said a sprinter has to run very fast, and when he reaches the line, he finishes. A striker has to run very fast to get the ball and then his game starts.”

Torres has been linked with a move from Chelsea when the transfer window reopens and Benitez revealed the club’s board had approached him to discuss their January business.

“I’m pleased they’re asking me, but it’s too soon,” said the Spaniard, whose side have been linked with moves for Brazilian forward Taison and Southampton full-back Luke Shaw.

“I want to see the team in a couple more games.”

The first of those comes today, where Benitez should enjoy some respite from the jeers, abuse and protest banners he endured in his opening two games at Stamford Bridge.

“I don’t have any problems playing at home,” he said, before admitting a change of scene could do the team good.

However, the 52-year-old will find few friends at Upton Park, especially opposite number Sam Allardyce, who he clashed with more than once while at Liverpool.

However, Allardyce insists today must be all about what his West Ham players can do on the pitch as they aim to avoid a third straight Premier League defeat rather than his relationship with Benitez.

“There is always a mental battle and I think the bottom line is whatever managers say between themselves, people can construe one way or the other, but it is about your players going out and doing it,’’ he said.

“You can use certain things in what you do prior or during the game and, from my point of view, I always see it as good banter.

“It would give me no more satisfaction than beating any other manager — the satisfaction would be fantastic if we can get a result against Chelsea.’’


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