Chelsea's disgruntled support offered a timely reminder to the club's hierarchy that they will not countenance Rafael Benítez's full-time appointment as manager by subjecting the Spaniard to another barrage of abuse at the final whistle after his side surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Southampton and maintain their recent stuttering home form.
The club's lowest Premier League crowd of the season, 38,484, saw the visitors' substitute Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon score in the second half to salvage Southampton's unlikely point. Benítez's decision to substitute Frank Lampard 11 minutes from time, replacing the midfielder with Fernando Torres, prompted the first wave of abuse aimed at the dugout, with a chorus of "You're not wanted here" and boos ringing out again at full-time.
That took on greater resonance given Bayern Munich's announcement earlier in the day that Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona head coach who has twice been courted by Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, in the past year, will take over at the Allianz Arena in the summer.
Chelsea are yet to address who will be succeeding Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked in November, on a permanent basis but the support have consistently made it clear that Benítez, for all his credentials and whatever he may achieve during his spell in interim charge, will not be tolerated.
The Spaniard admitted to being "disappointed" rather than infuriated by his team's second-half sloppiness here, with their initial dominance yielding only a point.
"We should have won, but credit to Southampton," said Benítez. "No, I'm not angry. I'm disappointed. When you know your players, what they can do and have to do, you're disappointed [to draw]. But I have to think about improving for the next one. That is what we do. Analysing; trying to coach players in the right way.
"We know the problems we have when the other team are well organised. We have to sustain attacks, keep the ball and that's not something we did today.
"We didn't have the control we were expecting [in the second half], didn't take our chances and that gave them the hope they would score. And they did. So we still have to be more clinical.
"We cannot be happy only drawing at home but the next game [at Stamford Bridge against Arsenal on Sunday] has to be totally different, another challenge."
Chelsea have won only one of Benítez's six home games in domestic competition, albeit that was an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, and are a distant 13 points off Manchester United at the top of the Premier League. Perhaps more pertinently, they are five points clear of fifth-placed Everton.
"We have to defend as a team, as a unit, a bit better," said Benítez. "That's something we have to improve. The atmosphere was fine when we scored the goals. After, maybe, we needed to take these chances and attack to put them under pressure and it would have been easier for everyone, this atmosphere."
Southampton, who had lost 5-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup at St Mary's 10 days earlier, have lost only twice in 12 league matches to move three points clear of the relegation zone. "The players have improved and found ways to pick up points," said their manager, Nigel Adkins. "This was all new to us. We've been used to winning games in the last few years, so the baptism we had in this division was tough.
"We've come away from home and shown resolve and character despite being 2-0 down at half-time. How quickly can we learn? Well, we lost 5-1 to Chelsea the other week, so that's demonstrated how quickly."
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