A defiant Rafael Benítez claimed to be content with the way Chelsea had performed even in defeat to Swansea City, suggesting he had actually spied reasons for optimism despite his side surrendering a two-goal deficit to leave the majority in this arena in open revolt at the final whistle.
The interim first-team manager and the chairman, Bruce Buck, were both booed by large sections of a home support frustrated as much by the refusal to offer Frank Lampard a new contract as the Spaniard's appointment and a second successive home defeat. There were chants for the reappointment of either Roberto Di Matteo and José Mourinho, and ironic cheers when Fernando Torres was replaced, with Swansea revelling in the hostile atmosphere to score late in each half.
That saw the Welsh club establish a healthy advantage to defend at the Liberty Stadium in a fortnight's time, though Benítez insisted he had been encouraged by his team's display even in defeat. "If you just see the scoreline you can say that [it was a poor performance], but if you analyse the game and the way things were going, I'd have a different opinion," said the Spaniard. "The team were doing really well, had a lot of chances and could have scored two or three in the first half. The team attacked, had plenty of possession and controlled the game against a good side, but we made two mistakes and conceded two goals."
Asked about the hostility, Benítez added: "You analyse all these things because we lost. But the way we played, the chances we created, is what we have to do. We have to be more clinical in front of goal and take these chances, of course, but to have 23 attempts against a team who played so deep? I was happy with how the team were working. If you played this game 10 times, maybe you would win nine of them."
Swansea have never graced a major cup final in their history, though their manager, Michael Laudrup, remains wary of the threat posed by Chelsea ahead of the second match even if this was an occasion to savour. "We've already had historic results at the club this season: winning at Anfield, winning at the Emirates," he said. "But winning at the European champions from last season is something very special. We had to play a different kind of game because it would have been unrealistic to come here and think we'd have the ball as much as we're used to. Obviously, our two goals came from their mistakes. But I could still only count three or four chances they had: that showed what a good performance we put in.
"The tie is not over. The potential in Chelsea's team is tremendous and they can have [Frank] Lampard and [Demba] Ba on the bench. There's enormous quality. But three chances? When we played Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium earlier this season they only had one chance apart from their goal. So even when we can't play our normal game, we can adapt our game. But we're not at Wembley yet. We're still very far away. If we don't have a good day, they can still score two or three goals because of the players they have. But we have a realistic possibility now."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ronnie Macdonald