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.