Benitez endured some of the most vitriolic abuse yet during his spell as interim Blues boss on Sunday as the European champions went into half-time a goal down. Chants of "You don't know what you're doing" were once again among the insults visiting fans hurled at the Spaniard, whose team selection and tactics have come under fire repeatedly in recent weeks. But his substitutions could hardly be faulted after they were almost immediately followed by the goals that snatched a 2-2 draw and rescued a replay. Benitez threw on Juan Mata at half-time having elected to rest the winger, with the late introduction of Demba Ba also paying off.
"I can guarantee that playing Mata, changing the game, we know what we are doing," said Benitez, who was forced to name forgotten man Yossi Benayoun in his squad after losing several players to injury, suspension and international duty.
That may have explained the downbeat demeanour of the former Liverpool boss, who spent much of his pre-match press conference on Friday bemoaning the resources at his disposal. It was pointed out yesterday that Chelsea did not even have that many players on the sidelines and their plight could be much worse. "I agree with you," said Benitez, insisting he had done all he could to convince a reluctant board to spend more money before the transfer window closes. Chelsea's need for reinforcements grew on Sunday as their unprecedented fixture pile-up worsened, their FA Cup replay having to take place on fifth-round weekend. Benitez was hoping to be able to call upon Petr Cech for Wednesday's Premier League game at Reading after the goalkeeper sat out Sunday's game with a knock. David Luiz (ankle) remained a major doubt, while Eden Hazard will serve the second instalment of what will be an extended ban if the Football Association get their way.
Two days after refusing to answer questions on Hazard's red card for kicking out at Swansea ball boy Charlie Morgan, Benitez insisted a three-game suspension was "enough" punishment for the offence. Friday afternoon saw the FA charge Hazard over the incident, insisting the standard sanction for violent conduct was "clearly insufficient" in the Belgian's case. Chelsea had until Monday still to decide whether to contest that charge but it is understood that they would have to do so to stand any realistic hope of avoiding an additional ban. Anything over three matches would trigger an automatic appeal by the European champions and Benitez said:
"At the moment, we will accept that three games is enough."