Chelsea loses 3-1 at West Ham in Premier League
(AP Photo/Sang Tan)
By ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) Rafa Benitez's winless start as Chelsea manager worsened Saturday as West Ham came from behind to beat its London rival 3-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.
Juan Mata put Chelsea ahead in a fluent first-half performance, but the European champions collapsed after former striker Carlton Cole equalized in the 63rd minute with a contentious header.
But there was no disputing the late goals from West Ham substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga, which extended Chelsea's winless run in the league to seven matches.
Three of those have come under Benitez - two 0-0 draws before Saturday's loss - since owner Roman Abramovich defied fan hostility to hire him until the end of the season in place of the popular Roberto Di Matteo.
"We could have finished the game in the first half, but it was totally different in the second half," Benitez said. "We didn't start well, they were on top of us and we couldn't manage ... we gave the ball away easily, weren't comfortable in possession."
Given Abramovich's impatience with managers - Benitez is his ninth in nine years - it's no wonder the Spaniard is unsure if he will see out his contract.
"No, I'm not 100 percent," he said.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was delighted to prolong Benitez's miserable return to management almost two years after being fired by Inter Milan.
"We don't have sympathy for each other," Allardyce said. "We compete against other. We toil against each other. We play mind games against each other."
Chelsea's bleak run looked set to end when Mata capped off a bright start with a 13th minute-opener, the team's first goal under Benitez and the club's first in five hours, 34 minutes.
Fernando Torres cut ball back from the right to Mata, who swept in his eighth goal of the season.
But it had no effect on the Chelsea fans' hostility to Benitez, with a "Rafa Out" banner emerging and the by now familiar chant of "There's Only One Di Matteo."
On the pitch, though, Chelsea was in control and should have been further in front.
But Fernando Torres continues to confound Chelsea's decision to spend 50 million pounds (then $81 million) to sign him in January 2011. After Ramires' hard work sprinting down the right flank, the Spain striker put the ball over the crossbar to leave him without a league goal in two months.
"When you are attacking and you are controlling the game ... you have to score goals," Benitez said.
Kevin Nolan thought he had equalized for West Ham with an overhead kick, but it was ruled out after James Collins was penalized for a push on Ivanovic.
West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen's double save from Mata then prevented Chelsea from extending its lead.
Cech was booked for handling outside the area but he made amends by tipping over Nolan's header only moments after the free kick.
"I wouldn't say we were dead and buried at halftime, but it looked difficult for us," Allardyce said. "The tactics we used to expose the opposition - about belief and the desire to do so, and quality - upped our level. We started from the first whistle and continued until they cracked."
As Chelsea looked shaky at the back, West Ham put the visitors under siege.
Chelsea center back Gary Cahill was kept busy, blocking shots from Diame, who replaced Gary O'Neil at halftime, and Nolan.
West Ham was now the more fluent outfit, and Carlton Cole, who left Chelsea in 2006, made the most of his start with Andy Carroll facing two months out because of a left knee injury.
But Cole was fortunate the goal was given, after he climbed on Ivanovic, clasping the defender's neck, as he rose to meet Matt Jarvis' cross and power the header past Cech.
Benitez's decision to replace Hazard with Oscar was met with chants of "You Don't Know What You're Doing" as a first away game under the new manager provided no respite from the hostile fans.
Cech was keeping Chelsea in the game, making a low save from Winston Reid's header and then denying Jarvis.
From the resulting corner, it took a headed goal-line clearance from Ashley Cole to keep out Reid's effort.
But West Ham finally broke through again in the 86th when Cole squeezed the ball back to Diame, who stabbed the ball past Cech.
And in the third minute of stoppage time, Chelsea defender Ashley Cole gave the ball away to Maiga, who teed up Matt Taylor. The shot was saved, but Maiga, who had just replaced Carlton Cole, sent the follow-up past Cech.
Promoted West Ham is now just four points behind Chelsea.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris
Updated December 1, 2012