Football: Benitez tries to make peace after stormy week

Rafael Benitez tried to end his war with Chelsea's fans after the Blues interim manager ended a turbulent week by leading his side to a 1-0 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion.

Since arriving at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Benitez has been barracked by a section of the home support, who have never forgiven him for comments made about the club when he was in charge of Liverpool.

Benitez finally showed his frustration at the situation after the midweek FA Cup win at Middlesbrough when he launched a scathing attack on the fans and the club's hierarchy.

Inevitably he was subjected to some abuse from the stands during Saturday's win over Albion, which was settled by a 28th minute goal from Senegal strike Demba Ba.

But the Spaniard insisted he was happy the supporters had given his players enough enthusiastic backing to ensure the expected poisonous atmosphere failed to materialise.

"The atmosphere was good," he said. "I was really pleased with the fans getting behind the team and the players played with more confidence. It was clear it was very positive."

Had the fans' disaffection with Benitez hampered the players in previous games therefore? Benitez would not say so.

"I don't know, but I could see the players playing with more confidence and the fans behind the team," he said.

"I will not talk too much about that but it was very good, very positive. They were behind the team. We were playing very good football."

The win lifted Chelsea above Tottenham, who play Arsenal on Sunday, into third place and boosted Benitez's chances of avoiding becoming the latest victim of demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich.

"We created opportunities to score more and kill the game off, but we still defended well and it's a good win," Benitez added.

"We've still got 10 games to play, a long race, and we're in a good position. We still feel we can do well.

"I will keep working very hard. I think this is the way. I was really pleased with the performance on the pitch. I have a contract until the end of the season, that's the end of it."

Chelsea captain John Terry spent the afternoon sitting directly behind Benitez on the bench and the Spaniard, who was rumoured to have argued with his defender in midweek, confirmed the former England international was fully fit.

"We have seven players on the bench, that's the rule, and John Terry was one of the players," he said. "He was training yesterday."

One manager the Chelsea fans do like is Steve Clarke, the Albion head coach, who was both player and coach at Stamford Bridge for many years.

However, the Scot insisted he had not even mentioned the off-field turmoil in his pre-match team talk.

"The crowd don't play," he said. "We spoke a lot about the qualities of Demba Ba, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata and Frank Lampard arriving from midfield.

"I spoke for 20 minutes this morning and didn't once mention the crowd. I spoke about the opposition.

"Chelsea fans are always good to me. I've been back here numerous times since I left and they're always good to me."

Albion fans have had a difficult relationship with one of their players in recent weeks, with Peter Odenwingie failing to push through a move to Queens Park Rangers on deadline day.

The winger came off the bench to pep up his side's second-half performance and Clarke insisted the fall-out from his attempt to force through a move to Loftus Road was now over.

"The Peter Odemwingie saga for us is over," he said. "You could see the talent he's got and the fresh impetus he can give us.

"He's a key member of our squad. We closed the matter a few weeks ago."