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Benitez’s Chelsea stint ends with 5-3 loss to City

May 26, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — After the final whistle of his 50th and final game with Chelsea, Rafa Benitez walked toward the visitors’ dugout at Yankee Stadium, raised his left hand in a small acknowledgement to someone in the crowd and disappeared into the tunnel.

“A lot of fans, they were supporting in the end,” he said. “Some of them, maybe we couldn’t change their minds. But we did our job.”

Far away from the jeering supporters at London’s Stamford Bridge, Benitez completed his brief but productive stint as manager with a 5-3 loss to Manchester City in a season-ending friendly Saturday night.

Distrusted by Chelsea fans following his tenure at Liverpool, Benitez never settled in after he was hired on a seven-month contract in November to replace Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked six months after leading Chelsea to its first Champions League title. Still, Benitez did manage to lead Chelsea to the Europa League title during his short time with the team.

“A lot of fans, they were supporting in the end,” he said. “Some of them, maybe we couldn’t change their minds. But we did our job.”

Outgoing Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is expected to return to Chelsea for a second stint, the ninth managerial change under owner Roman Abramovich since 2004. Benitez appears headed to Napoli.

Benitez guided the Blues to the semifinals of the FA Cup and League Cup and a third-place finish in the Premier League, ensuring the club’s 11th straight Champions League appearance. The Spaniard’s title was interim manager, and very quickly it became apparent he wouldn’t be kept on.

“A final, two semifinals, a trophy, top three,” he said after Saturday’s match, beaming. “Everybody was saying, ‘He has to do this. He has to do that.’ We did it.”

“The circumstances were special, still we did our job as professionals,” he said.

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis was quoted Friday as saying Benitez will take over as coach of his club from Walter Mazzarri, who left to replace Andrea Stramaccioni at Inter Milan.

“It’s true that I will go back to London and will try to enjoy with the family for a while,” Benitez said, avoiding a direct reply.

City also is changing managers. Roberto Mancini was fired on May 13, exactly a year after leading City to its first Premier League title since 1968, leaving assistant Brian Kidd in charge for the team’s two-city U.S. tour, which began when City beat Chelsea 4-3 Thursday in St. Louis. Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini appears likely to take over at City.

In Saturday’s match, which was largely devoid of tough tackles and less physical than many training sessions, Samir Nasri scored twice for City and Ramires had two goals for Chelsea, which was playing its 76th match of the season.

City built a 2-0 lead on goals by Gareth Barry in the third minute and Nasri in the 29th. Ramires scored for Chelsea in the 46th and 69th minutes around James Milner’s goal for City in the 55th.

Nasri made it 4-2 in the 74th, Juan Mata curled in a free kick for Chelsea eight minutes later, and Edin Dzeko bounced a 30-yard shot past Petr Cech in the 84th.

“The fans here today and in St. Louis have watched two great games, with lots of goals, lots of attacking football,” Barry said. “I’m sure there’s a few defensive coaches who are not too happy.”

The match was played four days after Manchester City announced it will partner with the New York Yankees to launch New York City FC, which will become Major League Soccer’s 20th team in 2015. While planning for a new venue, the expansion team could start play at Yankee Stadium, which can fit a football pitch that the team says is 100-by-64 meters (110-by-70 yards).

“All us boys like traveling to the U.S.,” City goalkeeper Joe Hart said. “MLS is growing and growing and growing, and for Manchester City it’s the same thing. We’re growing as well. So it’s good to do it together.”

The crowd of 39,462 — the majority Chelsea fans — outnumbered the more than the 38,202 people who attended Chelsea’s friendly against Paris Saint-Germain in New York last July, but was below the 49,474 for a Real Madrid-AC Milan match the following month.

NOTES: City announced a one-year contract extension until 2017 with forward Sergio Aguero, who joined the club three years ago. ... There were moments of silence for Lee Rigby, a British soldier killed in London on Wednesday, and the victims of Monday’s tornado in Moore, Oklahoma ... Manchester City wore its 2013-14 Nike home jersey on the tour rather than the 2012-13 Umbro model.

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