Benitez’s Blues beaten by “soft” penalty

EUROPA LEAGUE

STEAUA BUCHAREST 1 vs CHELSEA 0

CHELSEA interim manager Rafael Benitez bemoaned the playing conditions inside the National Arena as his side suffered a narrow defeat in their last 16, first leg tie.

Steaua Bucharest scored the game’s decisive goal when Raul Rusescu slotted in a penalty 10 minutes before half-time.

And Benitez, whose team created few clear cut chances throughout, felt his players struggled to impose themselves in a difficult atmosphere in the Romanian capital, though still felt they should have taken an away goal back to west London.

“It was a difficult game, you could see the atmosphere and the pitch was not the best,” he said.

“We are disappointed because we conceded a goal with a soft penalty but we had one or two chances to score ourselves.

“Our goalkeeper was not making any saves and we could have scored, so we now have to do everything at Stamford Bridge.”

Steaua dominated possession in the first half, but created very little until Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand conceded a penalty for hauling down Rusescu as he jumped to meet Iasmin Latovievici’s cross. The Romania forward dusted himself down to slot in from the spot and earn his team a half-time advantage.

Chelsea were the stronger team in the second half, but Eden Hazard David Luiz and substitute Marko Marin wasted chances to score a crucial away goal.

Benitez, however, saw enough in Romania to be confident his team can turn the tie around in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

“We know we have a good chance at home,” he said. “In these kind of games and competitions if you don’t score away it’s more difficult. We are disappointed but we still have the belief that we can win at home.”

Elsewhere in the competition, Newcastle held Anzhi Makhachkala to a 0-0 draw in Russia.