Benitez ready for away games

Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has criticised Arsenal manager
Arsene Wenger for his public interest in Wilfried Zaha.

Wenger admitted he was eyeing a move for the winger in the
knowledge that Theo Walcott could walk away from the Gunners on a
free transfer in the summer.

But Holloway, who only took over at Selhurst Park earlier this
month, is anxious not to lose the 20-year-old England international
in the transfer window and questioned Wenger’s comments.

“Why is he talking about my players? It’s not the game,” said
Holloway, quoted in The Sun.

“I will be picking up the phone to talk to him as I don’t think
it is right and proper with the greatest respect. That is totally
bad etiquette.

“Wilf is a big part of our season and we have such a strong
contract others can go and whistle.

“He won’t be available, no matter what the price is in
January.”

Crystal Palace are currently second in the Championship table,
just one point behind leaders Cardiff.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew felt his side deserved much better
after watching the Magpies slip to a fourth consecutive Barclays
Premier League defeat at Stoke last night.

The 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium was the Magpies’ fourth
in a row, the first time the club have endured such a miserable run
since 2008 when they were relegated.

It looked like Newcastle would record a first away victory of
the season when Papiss Cisse put them in front two minutes into the
second half, and they were still ahead when the game entered the
final 10 minutes.

But in the 81st minute Cameron Jerome crossed for Jonathan
Walters to head in, and four minutes later two substitutes combined
as Kenwyne Jones set up Jerome for the winner.

Pardew said after the 2-1 loss: “Sometimes you have a game plan
and your players see it through to the letter and it’s pretty
galling to look them in the eye and say they’ve come away with
nothing, which I had to do.

“A couple of mistakes cost us the game, and we didn’t make many
mistakes. It’s a tough result for us to take.”

Pardew also felt his side should have had a second-half penalty
for handball, but he hopes the improved showing bodes well for
future games.

“That’s the sort of break you need when you’re on a run like
ours and we didn’t get it,” he said of the penalty shout.

“But I look at my team and it was such an improved performance.
There was real commitment, a good balance to the team, and, if
you’re going to get a victory, that’s the sort of performance
that’s going to lead you to one.”

Stoke had huffed and puffed without really looking like getting
back into the game until manager Tony Pulis introduced Jerome and
Michael Kightly midway through the second half, but he insisted the
credit should not be directed his way.

The Potters boss said: “I’ve always got this thing in the back
of my mind that when people say, ‘Oh, he’s made changes, he’s been
brilliant’.

“Why didn’t I start with Michael Kightly, why didn’t I start
with Cameron? That’s how brilliant I am.

“The lads have been fantastic, they’ve not played much this year
but the spirit has been very good and their commitment to the group
has been fantastic.”

The Blues made it three games without finding the net and two
straight goalless draws for the first time since Roman Abramovich
bought the club in Wednesday night’s west London derby.

That saw them slip seven points adrift of top spot in the
Premier League, with Benitez so far only able to stop the rot that
had set in at the back.

But despite seeing Chelsea manage a handful of shots on target
across his two games in charge, the Spaniard insisted there were
still goals in the side.

And he hopes matches away from home, where the Blues can play on
the break, will help them regain their confidence.

“If you have more space, with the quality we have, we might have
different chances,” said Benitez, whose side play five of their
next six matches away from Stamford Bridge, including two at the
Club World Cup.

Benitez admitted Chelsea need wins, starting at West Ham on
Saturday, where they will once again be without John Terry and
Frank Lampard, and probably Daniel Sturridge.

That almost certainly means another outing for Fernando Torres,
who showed no sign of breaking his own latest goalscoring drought
last night.

Chelsea fans, who kept faith with the ?50million man for so
long, have now started to turn.

Benitez can only dream of such patience.

After being subjected to a cacophony of jeers and abuse during
his first game in charge on Sunday, he was spared a repeat until
the closing moments of last night’s game.

Perhaps more telling were the chants of, “We want our Chelsea
back”, in front of the watching Abramovich, the closest supporters
have ever come to publicly criticising the club’s billionaire
benefactor.