Chelsea can still feel positive despite Torres miss
Fernando Torres woke up to mocking headlines on Monday after his open goal howler against Manchester United but there were signs at Old Trafford that the Spaniard is beginning to rediscover the form that prompted Chelsea to sign him from Liverpool for 50 million pounds.
Since joining in January he has been barely recognisable to the player who scored goals for fun while playing for Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool, managing just one goal in Chelsea blue before doubling his output with his side’s reply in the 3-1 defeat at United.
That finish, a delicate flick with the outside of his right foot after an instinctive burst into the area, was the highlight of a display that, apart from his inexplicable late miss, would have offered plenty of encouragement to coach Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea’s fans.
He made some telling runs between United’s defence, one of which led to his goal, and his body language looked far more positive throughout the contest.
Whether or not his fragile confidence will have been dented by his failure to find an empty net from 8 metres is another matter and it will be interesting to see if he plays in the League Cup clash with local rivals Fulham on Wednesday.
While most of the attention was on the newly-highlighted Torres, Chelsea’s vibrant display despite defeat was easy to overlook.
With Juan Mata’s clever range of passing offering Chelsea more midfield variety they had no trouble opening up United’s defence, as the statistic of 21 goal attempts testified.
Villas-Boas also came out of his first defeat as Chelsea manager in a good light.
Faced with a potential hammering at halftime when his side trailed 3-0, he refused to accept a damage limitation approach and instead hauled off the ineffective Frank Lampard and sent on striker Nicolas Anelka.
It was a positive approach that paid immediate dividends with Anelka and Torres linking well.
United defender Patrice Evra was clearly impressed with Chelsea’s display, suggesting that they, rather than Manchester City, will be United’s biggest title threat.
“I have a lot of respect for Chelsea. People talk about City and us but I always say Chelsea are our most difficult opponents as you can see,” he said.
“They didn’t come here just to defend but they attacked and looked to score goals and create chances. I couldn’t believe the goal didn’t go in from Fernando Torres. Maybe God was with us.”
So while Villas-Boas may have lost his first battle with Alex Ferguson, there were clearly signs that the Portuguese is capable of keeping Chelsea hot on the heels of United this season.
PHOTO: Chelsea’s Fernando Torres reacts after a missed opportunity during their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United in Manchester, northern England Sept. 18, 2011. REUTERS/Phil Noble