Rafa Benitez's Chelsea earned a point against champions Manchester City but he was subjected to remarkable abuse from his new supporters as his first game as manager ended in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.
A significant number of disaffected Chelsea fans chanted "f*** off Benitez, you're not welcome here" in the opening minutes as they made their feelings about Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal, and the decision to replace him with the former Liverpool manager, explicitly clear to Roman Abramovich.
Other Chelsea supporters held up 'Rafa Out' signs and chanted in support of his predecessor as the Spaniard endured one of the most hostile starts to a managerial reign in recent memory.
It was only marginally better on the pitch as Chelsea struggled to create any noteworthy chances against City, with Fernando Torres a constant disappointment after his restoration to the starting XI in Benitez's first team selection.
The draw means City sit one point behind leaders Manchester United, with Chelsea a further four back. However, the task of winning over the club's supporters may prove even more daunting than reining in the two Manchester sides for Benitez judging by this evidence.
Di Matteo left Torres out of the side to face Juventus - the game that provoked his dismissal - and it was no surprise to see the £50 million striker return. Torres scored 56 goals in 79 games under his compatriot at Liverpool and one theory behind the appointment of Benitez is that Abramovich hopes his arrival will inspire Torres to find his best form.
Chelsea's fans are certainly far more sceptical about the Benitez era and chants of "One Di Matteo" rang out around Stamford Bridge, giving way, remarkably, to sustained boos from thousands of home fans as the Spaniard emerged from the tunnel. That rancorous reception was silenced when a minute's applause was observed for former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton, whose death was announced on Sunday.
Benitez was subjected to renewed abuse from the home fans though - with some placards around the ground reading 'Rafa Out' and others professing loyalty to his predecessor - and when the clock ticked past 16 minutes - the number Di Matteo wore as a player at Chelsea - enthusiastic applause rang around Stamford Bridge while an implacable Abramovich remained stony-faced in his box.
Mutinous off the pitch, Chelsea were mediocre on it as City quickly assumed control of a rather patchy game. A poor clearance from David Luiz was pounced on in the opening exchanges and only a fine challenge from Ashley Cole prevented the excellent Pablo Zabaleta from latching onto David Silva's pass.
City fans chanted "you're getting sacked in the morning" at Abramovich's ninth manager and then enjoyed the chance to indulge in some ironic cheers as Torres, suffering another difficult afternoon as he struggled to find his touch and influence the game, connected poorly with a pass from Eden Hazard.
The undefeated visitors always looked on top with Zabaleta their unlikely attacking catalyst. The right-back stormed forward to find Silva with a cross, only for the Spaniard to head over the bar after beating Luiz to the ball, and then forced Petr Cech into an excellent save after intercepting a sloppy pass, exchanging passes with Edin Dzeko and rifling in a low effort.
Chelsea were restricted to a hopeful free-kick from Luiz as they struggled to create any genuine chances. Torres was unable to influence play in any meaningful way and cut a frustrated figure as the triumvirate of Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata failed to supply him with the ammunition he needed.
They ended the half with only two shots - their equal lowest tally over the past three seasons - while City saw a golden opportunity escape them when Dzeko headed back across goal from a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, only for Sergio Aguero to nod the ball straight at Cech when he had time to pick his spot.
Both sides were rather tentative at the start of the second half. While Chelsea had a rare sight on goal when Ramires rifled a shot over the bar from 30 yards, Yaya Toure also threatened from range when his low drive was fumbled by Cech, who claimed at the second attempt.
Torres's growing frustration - evident when he was fortunate not to be booked for kicking the ball away after fouling Kolarov - nearly lifted on 61 minutes when he latched onto a neat pass from Hazard and connected sweetly with his left foot, only to see his thunderous effort soar just over the bar. However, he soon reverted to type as his hesitancy allowed the superb Vincent Kompany to muscle him off the ball.
A downcast Torres, bereft of any confidence, stared at the turf as though he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. But just like his new manager, he was all too open to scrutiny as the Benitez era began with an uneventful 0-0 draw.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City): In crutches 48 hours before kick-off, the Belgian defender was heavily strapped but marshalled the City defence expertly and snuffed out the threat posed by Torres.
CHELSEA: Cech 6, Azpilicueta 7, Ivanovic 7, Luiz 6, Cole 7, Ramires 6, Mikel 5, Mata 6, Oscar 7, Hazard 6, Torres 5. Subs: Moses 6, Romeu 6.
MAN CITY: Hart 6, Zabaleta 7, Nastasic 7, Kompany 8, Kolarov 7, Toure 5, Barry 6, Milner 6, Silva 7, Aguero 5, Dzeko 5. Subs: Tevez 6, Balotelli N/A.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rafa Benitez
- Manchester City
- Fernando Torres