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Benitez era starts with draw as Blues hold champions

ESPN staff
November 25, 2012 « QPR boss Redknapp open to Beckham move | Chartbeat test »
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Rafael Benitez survived a baptism of fire in his first game in charge as Chelsea kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw at home to Manchester City, while Liverpool also drew blank as they were frustrated at Swansea. Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone with a win over Newcastle, while Tottenham returned to winning ways with victory against West Ham.

Rafael Benitez began his reign as Chelsea manager with a point as the Blues were held 0-0 by champions Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

The former Liverpool boss received a hostile reception when he was introduced to Blues fans before kick-off, and was unable to appease the Chelsea crowd as they failed to secure their first win in five Premier League matches to slip five points off the pace.

Benitez, who bought striker Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid while at Anfield, restored the Spaniard to the starting XI, and it was the £50m signing who had the best chance to snatch all three points for his side, latching onto the ball just inside the penalty area, only to blaze over.

In a scrappy match of few clear-cut chances, City, still unbeaten in the Premier League, forged the first real chance of the match, but David Silva could not keep his header down from Pablo Zabaleta's whipped cross.

Chelsea, who have looked fragile in defence in the absence of skipper John Terry, will be boosted by a clean sheet, although Ashley Cole was required to clear the ball off the line after Edin Dzeko's effort beat Petr Cech.

Cech was also called into action in stoppage time, although Matija Nastasic's header was directed straight at the Blues keeper. The draw moved City to within a point of leaders Manchester United, leaving Chelsea fourth.

Brendan Rodgers' first trip back to old club Swansea ended in frustration as Liverpool created a glut of chances in a 0-0 draw on Sunday.

Rodgers left Swansea in the summer to take the reins at Anfield, but he was afforded a warm reception at the Liberty Stadium upon his return. Sentiment soon disappeared when the opening whistle sounded, with both sides intent on attack, but a disallowed Jose Enrique goal was as close as either team came to scoring.

Liverpool started with Stewart Downing at left-back behind Enrique as Rodgers continued to switch the pair's positions, but it was the other flank that threatened to create a breakthrough. Glen Johnson headed over from an early corner and then sent a wicked cross in for Enrique, who chested wide as he failed to make up his mind how to attack the ball.

Swansea drew the first telling save when Wayne Routledge spun away from Martin Skrtel to sting the palms of Pepe Reina, but Johnson remained the most dangerous player on the pitch, breaking in behind the Swansea defence down the inside-left channel - only to see Gerhard Tremmel divert his goalbound effort over.

Pablo Hernandez looked the classiest player in the white of Swansea and he sent a delicate effort curling beyond Reina's far post in an entertaining first half, but a better effort was to come from Raheem Sterling, who slammed a thumping volley against the bar.

Still there was time for more before the interval as Liverpool exploited the right flank again, and this time they did put the ball in the net only for Enrique's back-post tap-in to be flagged for offside, with replays proving unclear.

Chances dried up somewhat in the second period, although Swansea began to look dangerous from set-plays, and Reina had to be at his most alert to foil Nathan Dyer after Downing switched off at the back.

The best opening arrived in the final ten minutes when Suarez and Sterling sparked a two-on-one, only for the latter to overhit his pass as Suarez was sent too wide to bear down on goal. Jonjo Shelvey also threatened from range but it was another fruitless day for Liverpool.

Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham beat West Ham © Getty Images
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Jermain Defoe haunted his former club as Tottenham sank West Ham 3-1 at White Hart Lane. The former Hammers striker scored twice as Spurs ended a run of three straight league defeats to move up to seventh, level on points with rivals Arsenal.

Defoe broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with a superb solo effort, skipping away from Winston Reid before slipping past Mark Noble and smashing a powerful shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

With Spurs in the driving seat, Gareth Bale was causing problems for the West Ham defence, and after seeing his first-half strike rattle the crossbar, the Welshman slotted home from Clint Dempsey's chipped pass.

Defoe got his second after an unselfish pass from Aaron Lennon to put the game beyond the Hammers, who earned a late consolation through on-loan striker Andy Carroll - his first goal for the club.

Southampton moved out of the relegation zone after a 2-0 victory over Newcastle. Saints' third win of the season, courtesy of goals from Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez, saw them move up to 17th, with Aston Villa dropping into the bottom three.

Lallana struck in the 34th minute at St Mary's, receiving the ball from Ramirez before sending a left-footed effort beyond Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal. That lead was then doubled on the hour as Ramirez turned goalscorer this time, converting from close range for a deserved Southampton victory, and things could have got better when Jay Rodriguez's late strike was ruled out for offside.

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