Rafael Benitez warned his Chelsea players to sharpen up or risk losing the Club World Cup final after they eased off in yesterday’s semi-final win over Monterrey.
Interim manager Benitez was pleased with his jet-lagged side’s 3-1 victory in Yokohama, but pulled them up on the late slackness that saw them fail to keep a clean sheet.
Benitez feared a repeat could cost the European champions dearly in Sunday’s final against South American counterparts Corinthians.
He said: “I’m not very happy with the goal we conceded.
“We won, which is fine, but still these little things can make a difference in a final, for example.”
He added: “When I talk about a winning mentality, always I talk about little details making the difference.
“The team has to think about winning, winning in style and not conceding because the goalkeeper likes clean sheets.
“They have to keep their concentration right to the end of the 90 minutes. That’s what they need to do.”
As well as winning the Club World Cup with Inter Milan two years ago, Benitez has bitter experience of defeat in the final after Liverpool lost a match they dominated against Sao Paulo seven years ago.
Chelsea wasted several first-half opportunities, leading only 1-0 through Juan Mata.
“You have to take your chances,” said Benitez, who watched his players produce a three-minute second-half blitz to kill the contest through Fernando Torres and Darvin Chavez’s own goal before Aldo de Negris’s stoppage-time consolation.
Three matches without a win have now been followed by a hat-trick of victories for the man who still could not escape the ire of Chelsea fans, despite being so far from home.
“Now the team knows what we want to do,” Benitez said.
“They have more confidence and are enjoying their football a bit.”
Chelsea’s upturn in fortunes has corresponded precisely with that of Torres, who scored for a third successive match yesterday for the first time in his Stamford Bridge career.