If Benitez’s task was to get Fernando Torres scoring, he’s already failing. But if his task was to shore up the Blues’ defence, then he’s up and running. Either way, he has given the press a licence to concentrate on the chorus of boos in the next day papers, rather than an entertaining football match.
It so often happens when excitement for a game is not requited once the whistle blows to start the game. Sometimes, a match the size of Chelsea versus Manchester City can send seismic shifts throughout the world, with controversy-galore or a pulsating exhibition of finishing.
Other times, a lowly Cup game against Scunthorpe United can prove to be better value for money.
It was a chance for the world to see the beginning of a new era for the European Champions. Rafael Benitez, the stand-out manager which Chelsea fans did not want, had a chance to implement his new ideas, but in truth, little did he tinkle from a typical Di Matteo side.
The amicably coined trio of “Mazacar” continued to provide the service for Fernando Torres, whilst David Luiz was trusted to keep City out alongside Branislav Ivanovic. Spaniard Azpilicueta impressed his compatriot boss enough to warrant him a starting spot.
But it was a Spaniard in the opposing team which caused the game’s first real chance. Silva teamed up well with Zabaleta, before Ashley Cole intervened.
The Chelsea faithful sung “We want you to stay!” in the third minute to the England left-back, with rumours heavily circulating that a summer move across the Channel was in place, and yet again, he showed Roman Abramovich why Chelsea cannot lose such an asset just yet.
Edin Dzeko, whose frustrations at being on the bench are well-documented, was beginning to prove to Mancini why he deserves to start, but his strike partner Aguero failed to spot him in acres of space.
It was a start where minds were elsewhere, and where sentiment prevailed. Dave Sexton, Chelsea’s manager who oversaw FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup glory in the early 1970s, had passed away moments before kick-off, with Chelsea observing his contribution with black armbands.
Di Matteo’s ousting as Chelsea manager was felt in similarly crushing fashion, with a heart-warming applause of “only one Di Matteo” on minute 16.
The football did not even try to provide a reason for the fans to concentrate. Nostalgia triumphed as fans reminisced on the heroics Di Matteo served, with others fearful of the future.
Where there was some football, it was still all City. Yaya Toure overhit a pass which would have released Aguero, whilst Chelsea were resorting to long-range attempts by Ramires.
Fernando Torres did have the host’s best chance, however, as clever footwork set him free in space, but on his unfavoured left foot, the Spaniard fired high and wide.
Time and again Ashley Cole has found himself in the right place at the right time, and it was no different here at a drenched Stamford Bridge, as the 31-year-old cleared off the line from Dzeko.
It was the Bosnian’s last piece of action, as Chelsea nemesis Tevez took to the stage. Benitez himself had seen enough, bringing on Victor Moses for Eden Hazard, who was targetted all afternoon by City.
But as time wore on, the mood changed. Benitez appeared content to sit back and make sure he did not get off to a losing start.
Mancini was not of the same thinking as his opposite number in the dugout, deciding to send on Balotelli too. Life is easy with a plethora of attacking options.
But it was his defender Nastasic who could have had the final say, had he not headed straight at Cech in the dying moments.
So a point a piece. Fulham and West Ham await. No less than six points is expected by the fans. Anything else and the boos could turn into cries of disgust.