Benitez brushes off Chelsea pressure in Japan
Benitez brushes off Chelsea pressure in Japan
Benitez, runner-up as Liverpool manager at the 2005 Club World Cup in Japan, brushed off fears that a slip-up this time might cost him his job.
“With the economic crisis around the world everybody is under pressure,” he told reporters after Chelsea’s arrival in the Far East.
“I don’t have a problem with pressure. The future is the next game and the one after that.”
Chelsea face Mexico’s Monterrey in Yokohama on Thursday, and will hope to meet either South American champions Corinthians or Egypt’s Al-Ahly in the final on Dec. 16.
“It’s a massive competition,” Benitez said. “Everybody here has the same idea as me — to win every trophy.
“It doesn’t matter if we are in the Champions League or not,” added Benitez, who won the Club World Cup with Inter Milan in 2010 in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a great opporunity and we’re here to win. We won our last two games and we’re playing well.”
With striker Fernando Torres rediscovering his scoring touch with four goals in two games, including two in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Sunderland, Benitez backed his players to continue their recent improvement.
“Fernando is in a good position now because the team is creating more chances and because the team is doing well,” said Benitez, who replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo last month.
“I can communicate with him in a different way and work with him but the main thing is his team mates playing well.”
Goalkeeper Petr Cech said the dethroned European champions could live with the pressure of being labelled favorites to win the Club World Cup at the first attempt.
“We came to win the competition and will try to prove it on the pitch,” he said.
“You can only play in this competition if you win the Champions League and I’ve had to wait eight years to get here.
“As the boss said, the last two results were very good for us so we’ll try to carry that momentum and hope it takes us through.”
Cech also gave the goal-line technology being used in Japan by FIFA for the first time the thumbs-up.
“I’m very happy with the decision,” Cech said with a sideways glance at Benitez, whose Liverpool side knocked Chelsea out of the 2004-05 Champions League through Luis Garcia’s “ghost” goal.
“I’ve been saying for 10 years football needed something like this. Results of certain competitions could be different.
“As a player you would rather wait for the right decision than be disappointed at the end of the game.”
Profligate Arsenal punished by 10-man Atletico Madrid
- The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes
- Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week
LONDON: Arsenal’s hopes of sending outgoing manager Arsene Wenger off with a trophy suffered a major blow as they could only draw 1-1 with 10-man Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday.
The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, with Sime Vrsaljko’s early red card handing them the initiative.
However, they were made to rue a host of missed chances before and after Alexandre Lacazette headed them in front on the hour mark.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone was also sent to the stands shortly after Vrsaljko’s dismissal, but the Spaniards resisted manfully and pounced when their chance came as Antoine Griezmann prodded home a vital away goal eight minutes from time.
Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week if Wenger’s last game in charge is to be the final in his homeland in Lyon on May 16.
Moreover, Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League football next season also hang on becoming the first side other than Real Madrid to eliminate Atletico from Europe for five seasons.
There was a far more highly-charged atmosphere for Wenger’s penultimate home game in charge than there had been for last weekend’s game against West Ham United.
And the hosts were given plenty of encouragement early on, even when still up against Atletico’s full complement.
Lacazette volleyed off the outside of the post and forced Jan Oblak into the first of a series of fine saves with a header from close range.
Vrsaljko had been booked within two minutes for bringing down Jack Wilshere.
"Absolutely criminal."— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 26, 2018
Arsenal dominate for 81 minutes, and then... Antoine Griezmann comes up with a huge away goal for Atleti.
A sucker-punch for Arsene Wenger :facepunch: pic.twitter.com/z24UgZE60j
And the Croatian left his side a man light after just 10 minutes when French referee Clement Turpin showed no leniency for another late challenge on Lacazette.
Moments later, Simeone was also dismissed by the officious referee for taking his protests too far when an Arsenal player wasn’t booked for what he thought was a similar foul.
Atletico’s excellent defensive record is what has carried them to five European semifinals in seven seasons under Simeone.
The visitors battened down the hatches with 10 men, but were reliant on Oblak to keep them in the tie.
Wilshere headed straight at Oblak when unmarked at the back post at the end of a flowing Arsenal move.
And the Slovenian then spread himself well with an outstretched leg to deny Danny Welbeck.
Having weathered the Gunners’ early storm, Atletico only began to threaten themselves late in the first half and David Ospina had to be alert to parry a fiercely struck Griezmann shot following a fine run from Thomas Partey.
Atletico retreated ever deeper toward their own goal after the break and were finally punished on the hour mark when Wilshere’s deep cross found Lacazette rising above Lucas Hernandez to head in his seventh goal in seven games.
However, the French international and Arsenal could have had more.
Laczette’s dangerous ball across goal found no takers before he headed another good opportunity wide.
And Arsenal paid heavily for their profligacy, and some comical defending, when Atletico grabbed a vital away goal on 82 minutes.
Griezmann outmuscled French international team-mate Laurent Koscielny and then benefited from a slip by Shkodran Mustafi after his initial effort had been saved by Ospina to prod his 27th goal of the season into the roof of the net.
There was still time for Oblak to show why Griezmann isn’t the only Atletico player wanted by Europe’s elite with a spectacular one-handed save to turn Aaron Ramsey’s header behind and keep Los Rojiblancos on course for another European final.