Somewhere in a parallel universe, Michael Fish was sitting on the Soccer Sunday sofa, chuckling at the tweet he’d just read.
“There’s a gentleman from SW6 who has heard that the fabled ‘El Nino’ phenomenon has been gathering strength in recent weeks and is due to arrive in London on Sunday afternoon. Well, sir, I can assure you that it’s really nothing to worry about…”
Our recent record against Manchester City hasn’t been good – it’s almost two years since we beat them and the first hour of last season’s FA Cup semi final made for pretty uncomfortable viewing, such was their superiority.
While a draw would represent progress, the need to start getting results against our closest challengers is becoming more pressing, with just two points taken from a possible nine against Spurs, Manchester United and Everton. Arsenal’s win on Saturday lunchtime meant that the loser of Sunday’s game could find themselves as low as seventh in the table by the time St. Jude blew into town on Sunday evening.
(Still above Manchester United, though – things aren’t quite that desperate.)
Chelsea’s starting lineup was as you’d expect – Cahill favoured as JT’s partner at the expense of David Luiz, possibly as a result of his howler against Cardiff last weekend. Kompany’s absence from City’s back four was the obvious weakness in their starting eleven.
The game itself was entertaining, if not as technically impressive as one might expect given the quality of the players on show. Cahill spurned a decent chance inside the first five minutes, while Lampard picked up a yellow for a foul on Fernandinho midway through the first half, with the concern that at times City’s midfield was perhaps too quick for us.
Around the half hour mark, Ramires found Torres with an excellent pass which gave the Spaniard enough time and space to wrap the ball in foil and warm it thoroughly in a bain-marie before slotting it past Joe Hart. He blasted it over the bar.
Nervous looks were exchanged amongst a few of us in the Matthew Harding Upper. Oh no, he’s either going to vanish or go barmy and scratch someone again.
How wrong we were. Fernando channelled his inner Howard Beale and yelled “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” Or at least that’s what I’m describing it as for purely dramatic purposes. He picked up the ball out wide and went past Clichy as though the Frenchman’s boots were nailed to the floor and crossed for Schurrle to tap home. With only the post/bar denying him a spectacular second a few minutes later, Torres was putting in the kind of performance that typified his spell in a red shirt, rather than a blue one.
The second half started around five minutes after the whistle went as far as Chelsea were concerned. Nasri found Aguero lurking in between Terry and Cahill and the Argentine wasted no time in losing the latter, hammering the ball past a slightly flapping Cech. The next forty minutes or so were fairly even, with both teams having their fair share of chances, Chelsea arguably edging it as the better side after Mikel’s introduction just after the hour mark.
While fans on both sides were getting used to the idea of a draw – a fair result for all concerned – Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic decided it was time to hop into football’s equivalent of the exploding clown car and give everyone a good chuckle to ease the tension. Torres went past the ensuing chaos like a greased whippet, chasing down the ball like a man with redemption on his mind. The collective breath was held – it’s a narrow angle, Demichelis is getting back…
2-1. Pandemonium reigned in the stands while City’s players buried their faces in the turf and Joe Hart’s already battered reputation was dragged into the car park for yet another kicking. Mourinho burst past the City bench to celebrate with his son (sat just behind the away dugout, apparently) and however many Chelsea fans that landed on top of him during the frenzy. Manuel Pellegrini took umbrage and added another tedious chapter to Handshakegate, marching down the tunnel with a face like a man discovering that there is no toilet paper a second or so too late.
(It should be noted that across town around the same time, another Portuguese chap was criticising the residents of Quiet Hart Lane for their lack of support. I’ll never work out why we didn’t really warm to him down in SW6.)
So how did you solve a problem like Fernando, Jose? [Tweet this]
For the last three years, it’s been difficult to think of a less fitting nickname than Fernando Torres’s ‘El Nino’ moniker. Less a powerful force of nature, more a man playing as though he had a nasty case of trapped wind.
His performance yesterday was a revelation – quick, direct, willing to take on players and to shoot, all aspects that have been sorely lacking since his eye-wateringly expensive move down to civilisation. True, he has been impressive in recent weeks (months, actually – HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED played a part in the player’s rebirth), but the overriding concern has always been that you couldn’t rely on him to deliver in big games. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this season is that his best performances have come against the better sides. All about intensity and training, it seems.
To suggest that Mourinho’s management has worked wonders for the boy Fernando is understatement in the extreme – this is practically alchemy and long may it continue. At this rate, Bruce Buck need not worry about the budget for the CFC Christmas party – just hand Jose a couple of sea bass and some pain rustique (Waitrose, of course) and he’ll knock up a spread that would leave ‘Fatty’ Foulke refusing the last After Eight.
Retiring to the pub, we considered a recent football truism – that Schurrle is a fine player but he can’t score for Chelsea – and an age-old one, namely that Torres is finished and beyond saving. Much easier to consider that one’s opinions on the game are largely inaccurate most of the time when you’re doing it through the bottom of a glass with three points in the bag. There’s also a warm feeling that football is much more fun than it has been in some time down in our corner of West London.
And so we find ourselves in second in the Premier League on goal difference after passing the first real test in the League this season – trips to Arsenal in the Fizzy Bad Credit Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) and Newcastle lie ahead. Bring them on…
The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “On a day when Joe Hart and Jose Mourinho both ended up out of their areas, Fernando Torres ended up back in a place he looked to have left long ago. Playing with strength and speed, preying on opponents’ mistakes, Torres evoked memories of his predatory Liverpool days with an accomplished performance here. Still only 29, with three or four good years ahead of him, Torres can be a vital force for Chelsea if he repeats such displays as this. There was a bad miss but otherwise so much to admire in the powerful way he created André Schürrle’s goal, in the way he cut in from the left to hit the post, and how he kept hunting chances and his persistence was rewarded with the injury-time winner to erase the memory of Sergio Agüero’s majestic equaliser.”
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Torres’s name was chanted all around, the chorus persisting as José Mourinho extricated himself from the crowd behind the visitors’ dug-out where he had apparently dived – much to Manuel Pellegrini’s disgust – to celebrate with his son, José Jr. This was the second week running the Portuguese has ended up in the crowd following last week’s dismissal against Cardiff City, but this time he was not the centre of attention. That was reserved for Torres alone.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “For Jose Mourinho, this was a major result, one of those that, over the course of the season, might just prove decisive. His team are still second, two points behind Arsenal, but they have their first major scalp of the season against one of the title contenders. That was why Mourinho celebrated by climbing into the supporters behind the benches in search of his son Jose junior, he said later, who has been allocated a season ticket behind the away dug-out.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A 90th-minute Fernando Torres goal secured a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in what was an entertaining afternoon in west London. The game appeared to be heading for a draw after Andre Schurrle’s first-half opener had been cancelled out by Sergio Aguero three minutes into the second half, but Torres, a constant thorn in the side of the City defence, pounced on a mix-up between Matija Nastasic and Joe Hart right at the death to seal a fifth successive victory for Jose Mourinho’s side. It’s now eight games unbeaten for the Blues as we go from strength to strength. A first victory of the season over a direct rival will aid the confidence in the group no end and we can now look forward to two away games on the horizon, starting with a trip to Arsenal on Tuesday in the Capital One Cup, which is followed by a Premier League game at Newcastle United next Saturday lunchtime.”