London – Rafa Benitez admitted on Sunday that Chelsea face a battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League after the interim manager suffered the sixth defeat of his three-month Stamford Bridge reign.
Goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez consigned Chelsea to a 2-0 loss at Manchester City on Sunday and they will be overtaken by Tottenham in the scramble for European places if Spurs win at West Ham on Monday night.
Benitez said: “We just have to carry on trying to win our games and fight for the top four.”
Chelsea are now only two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal.
It is a worrying prospect for a team crowned European champions less than a year ago and Benitez admitted he was looking nervously over his shoulder after Chelsea rarely troubled City’s goal even before a penalty miss by Frank Lampard in the 52nd minute.
Joe Hart reacted brilliantly to palm away Lampard’s kick at full stretch but was fortunate to escape a card after conceding the penalty by bundling over Demba Ba.
Benitez said: “We knew we were close to City and that by winning we would be even closer. We didn’t do it but we still have to do our job because Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are close behind.
“Should Hart be sent off? I haven’t seen the replay but it should have been at least a yellow card. You can argue about the direction Ba was going in but it was still a clear chance.
“I think that was a turning point. We didn’t do well in the first half but were still level, so we were talking about keeping the ball better and showing more character. We were doing that and the penalty miss was a crucial moment.
“I think it was a good penalty but it was also a good save, so credit to Hart.’
City manager Roberto Mancini refused to concede defeat in the title race despite sitting 12 points behind leaders Manchester United and again showed his perfectionist side by criticising Hart for conceding the penalty.
“We can’t think it’s finished with 11 games to go,” said the City manager. “It’s not my mentality or the mentality of the players. I think Joe is the best in England and one of the best in Europe but he should have done better with the through ball for the penalty.
“I told him we can’t concede a penalty like this from a kick 45 metres out. Kolo Toure and Joe both made a mistake. But after that, Joe was fantastic, the way he saved it.” – Daily Mail