FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: QUALITY AND CHARACTER

Posted on: Mon 21 Jan 2013

It was quite literally a game of two halves as we overcame Arsenal at Stamford Bridge to extend our lead over Arsene Wenger's side to 11 points in the Barclays Premier League and secure our first home win of 2013.

The Blues were absolutely dominant before the break, racing into a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes courtesy of Juan Mata's early opener and a Frank Lampard penalty, and in truth, we should have been out of sight by half-time.

Arsenal, however, looked a completely different team in the second half, and when Theo Walcott pulled one back in the 58th minute, the home supporters - with Wednesday's draw against Southampton in mind - would have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Arsenal poured forward at every opportunity in search of an equaliser, but to our credit, we stood firm collectively to hold on for a hugely significant win, and one that sees us complete the double over the Gunners for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign.

As he looked back on an entertaining afternoon in SW6, Rafael Benitez expressed his delight at the manner of the victory…

On the performance
'
I'm happy because we were creating a lot of chances at home in the last few games,' said the Spaniard. 'We weren't winning, but we were controlling the matches. Today, we had a lot of chances in the first half and we were on top of them.

'Even in the second half when they were pushing and pushing, we had a lot of situations on the counter-attack where we could have scored again.

'I'm really pleased because the players played with a great effort and it was good for everyone who enjoyed the game.

'Everybody was working very hard. Juan Mata and Fernando [Torres] were sending the ball to the right players which allowed us to press and stop them playing football, and afterwards we brought Demba Ba on who held the ball up very well.

'When you have only one striker for one month and a half, and you cannot change him, it's more difficult for the player. Now we have two strikers, we can manage, and it's better for the team.'

On the significance of the victory
'Every game you win, especially when you show quality and character, is always positive for the players ahead of the next game.

'Winning against a top side is always important. When you are in the top four, and you want to be sure of staying in the top four, Arsenal are one of the biggest rivals.

'At the moment we are doing well, we are progressing and if we get three points in our next game it will be fantastic.'

On Arsenal's complaints over the award of our penalty for a foul on Ramires
'We could be talking about the first foul by [Per] Mertesacker on Oscar which could have been a penalty and a red card. You could be talking about incidents all the time, but we deserved to win, the team did very well.'

On the midfield battle
'
We didn't have many options as David [Luiz] couldn't play, so in the end we were left with Lampard and Ramires in the middle, and we knew that would be the key area.

'We tried to manage in the wide areas with fresh legs but it's not easy when you don't have too many specific players in these positions, but the team did well and I was pleased for them.'

On John Terry and Frank Lampard
'When I arrived we had Terry and Lampard injured. Now, Lampard is playing and Terry is coming back. It's good to have different options, but it's still early because to gain match fitness Terry has to play, but you cannot play him in this type of game as he will have to play high, and that's more difficult if he's not fit.

'I can understand that Frank, from day one, has been doing a great job. He is under contract, his commitment is there and I'm really pleased with him.

'Every player here has to compete for his position. That's good for the team, and also for me as a manager because I can make decisions. If you have two or three options it's easier to manage.'

On the news that Ashley Cole is set to sign a one-year contract extension
'The club has an agreement with the player, so we are really pleased. The paperwork is still to be done but the agreement is there.'

Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, acknowledged that the result has left his side with plenty to do if they are to secure qualification for next season's Champions League.

'Tactically we changed some things in the second half, but psychologically we were much more on the front-foot,' said the Arsenal boss.

'We didn't play well in the first half; in the second half we came out with a much better spirit and attitude. Unfortunately we didn't make enough of our corners, free-kicks and the chances we created.

'Chelsea played well, but we weren't well positioned on the pitch, and individually we gave them too much room to play. We have lost two big games in the last week and that's very damaging for us.'