Football - Benitez sees improvement in Chelsea

Rafael Benitez claimed Chelsea have improved under his stewardship after watching the Blues hammer Stoke 4-0 at the Britannia Stadium.

PA Sport

The Spaniard was feeling the heat from the fans again after back-to-back home defeats, in the Barclays Premier League against bottom side QPR and in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Swansea on Wednesday.

Benitez is still not accepted by many of the Chelsea fans following the unpopular sacking of Roberto Di Matteo in November but he insisted the side is in rude health.

"The team is doing well, the players are happy," said the interim boss. "The players are training really well and you can see that they're trying to perform. All the staff are doing a great job so the atmosphere in the side is really good.

"When we play the games we cannot control what's going on outside the pitch but we'll try to do our best on the pitch and hopefully it will be easier.

"We cannot every week be thinking crisis, not crisis. We're scoring more goals than in the past, we're conceding half of the goals that the team has conceded in the past.

"That means we have more balance and that is the way to sustain the performance of the team at this level."

Stoke more than matched Chelsea during the first half and it looked like they would reach half-time all square until Jonathan Walters powered a header into his own net in injury time. It was the striker's 100th Premier League appearance but it was emphatically not his day.

In the 62nd minute he repeated the trick with another header past Asmir Begovic and Chelsea made it three goals in 11 minutes through a penalty from Frank Lampard - who is now within eight goals of Bobby Tambling's club record - and a long-range strike from Eden Hazard.

To cap off Walters' nightmare day he missed a penalty in injury time after being felled by John Terry, who made his first appearance since suffering a knee injury two months ago as a 79th-minute substitute.

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