Middlesbrough 0 Chelsea 2 match report: Ramires inspires Chelsea in the calm before the storm

 

The Riverside Stadium

Will an FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford be enough to unite the fragmented football club that is Chelsea? It is the latest question to emerge from a season of chaos. You would not bet on it, but then you would not bet on anything at Stamford Bridge right now.

Rafael Benitez has met vitriol whichever way he has turned since he succeeded Roberto Di Matteo as the interim manager. It will reach new levels against Manchester United in that sixth-round tie a week on Sunday – should he still be at the Bridge. Held in contempt by Sir Alex Ferguson, loathed for his association with Liverpool by the United supporters, Benitez will be the loneliest man in football that afternoon when he walks along the touchline, still believing he can emerge from the mess of a season with silverware.

It remains possible, following this relatively comfortable victory against a Middlesbrough side struggling for form and confidence in the Championship. Perhaps Monday's exchange at Chelsea's Cobham training ground, where Benitez questioned attitude, will be a turning point. For the remainder of his tenure, he has three months to either squeeze the side into the top four of the Premier League, or land the FA Cup or Europa League. If he does that, his CV will feel refreshed.

Either way, for Chelsea supporters, not much has changed. Benitez never had anything to gain with them and they will be allowed to fly flags on Saturday to condemn their own manager when West Bromwich Albion, led by former Chelsea favourite Steve Clarke, arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Despite eight changes to the Chelsea team that lost at Manchester City, Middlesbrough, with one win and one draw from their previous nine games in the Championship, were last night still facing a side that cost Roman Abramovich £125m to assemble. They are staggering figures, but the team was weaker for the changes, so much so that by half-time the best opportunity had come the way of the home side.

John Terry had been restored to the heart of the Chelsea defence and it was into this area that Nicky Bailey aimed an outswinging cross in the 26th minute – following good work by Faris Haroun – but Scott McDonald headed wide. That came four minutes after the struggling Fernando Torres had shot tamely at Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele.

That was as near as Steele came to a save in the first half. Petr Cech was a similarly unused figure for large spells of that first 45 minutes.

It was Torres, however, who scored Chelsea's first goal six minutes into the second half. After Yossi Benayoun had laid the ball off to the edge of the Middlesbrough penalty area, Ramires shot goalwards and the ball deflected in off Torres, the Spaniard knowing little about it.

Torres could have really boosted his flagging reputation just before the hour when he beat the offside trap but with space and time was closed down and his shot deflected for a corner.

Eden Hazard's introduction added an edge to the visitors. In the 72nd minute he took a pass from Ramires and quickly curled a shot narrowly wide of Steele's goal.

Seconds later he created Chelsea's second goal. Hazard was released by a clever Oscar back-heel and squared the ball to Victor Moses, who tapped home from close range. It looked simple, even if nothing at Chelsea is.

Man of the match Ramires.

Match rating 4/10.

Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Attendance 27,856.

Sixth round draw

Saturday 9 March  Everton v Wigan (12.45pm, ITV); Manchester City v Barnsley

(5.30pm, ESPN)

Sunday 10 March  Millwall v Blackburn (2pm, ESPN); Manchester United v Chelsea (4.30pm, ITV)

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Arts and Entertainment
The first batch of coach and ticket packages has sold out for next year's Glastonbury
musicIt looks like you're going to have to be quick to get tickets this year
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Extras
indybest
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?