Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Hammers leave Benitez feeling blue

Carlton Cole scored the equaliser to set up West Ham's come-from-behind win

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea nightmare continued as West Ham hit back to inflict his first defeat in charge and extend his winless start as interim manager as the Hammers recorded a 3-1 victory.

Already the first boss of the Roman Abramovich era not to oversee a victory in his opening two games, it got worse for Benitez at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon as the Blues made it seven Barclays Premier League games without maximum points.

Juan Mata appeared to ease the pressure on the former Liverpool boss by ending the European champions' five-hour, 34-minute goal drought after 13 minutes. But the visitors squandered several chances and were deservedly made to pay through a controversial Carlton Cole equaliser and goals from substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga.

There were early warning signs for Chelsea when a straight free-kick from James Collins sailed over everyone to Winston Reid, whose header across goal was scrambled to safety by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Fernando Torres' striking instincts helped Chelsea end their longest goal drought of the Abramovich era, as the Spaniard burst in behind onto Victor Moses' 13th-minute through ball and coolly cut it back for Mata to sidefoot home easily,

After Carlton Cole - in for the injured Andy Carroll - saw a shot blocked, Ramires and Torres blew a four-on-two break, the latter skying his finish. West Ham thought they had equalised in the 33rd minute through Kevin Nolan's close-range overhead kick but referee Martin Atkinson controversially chalked it off for a push.

Mata could have made it 2-0 in the 40th minute when he fired Moses' cutback too close to Jussi Jaaskelainen and saw his follow-up blocked by Joey O'Brien. Hammers boss Sam Allardyce sent on Matt Taylor and Diame for James Tomkins and Gary O'Neil as the half-time changes.

Both had the desired effect, as an equaliser looked only a matter of time and it arrived in the 63rd minute in controversial fashion as Matt Jarvis' cross was headed in by Carlton Cole who had climbed all over Branislav Ivanovic to nod it in.

Torres scuffing a glorious rebound chance straight at Jaaskelainen after the keeper saved from Eden Hazard, before Mata hit the inside of the post with a brilliant free-kick.

With four minutes remaining, a throw-in found its way to Carlton Cole, who laid the ball off to Diame to drill home and it got worse in stoppage time when fellow substitute Maiga followed up after Taylor's shot was parried.