LONDON (AFP) – Rafael Benitez’s tenure as Chelsea interim coach began beneath a hail of boos on Sunday as the club’s fans voiced their displeasure at his arrival.
Benitez was appointed on a short-term basis on Wednesday after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked, but some Chelsea fans have protested against the move due to the Spaniard’s former role as coach of rivals Liverpool.
The announcement of Benitez’s name over the public address system ahead of Chelsea’s home game with Manchester City on Sunday prompted a chorus of boos to break out around Stamford Bridge.
Supporters chanted Di Matteo’s name, with one fan holding up a banner that read, ‘Only One Di Matteo’, and there were also abusive chants aimed at Benitez.
In the 16th minute, Chelsea’s fans began to applaud and chant Di Matteo’s name in a pre-planned protest that made reference to the fact the Italian wore the number 16 shirt during his playing days at the club.
Speaking prior to the game, Benitez said he was not expecting to be the target of abuse.
“I don’t think it will be bad because they know they have to support the manager, because he is the manager of their team,” he told Sky Sports.
“When you are the manager of the team that is their big rivals it is normal (to get a bad reception). Now they know I will do my best for them and the team and will try to win.”