Ba shows just what has been missing from Torres's game
Southampton 1 Chelsea 5:There can be little doubt that one of the reasons Rafael Benitez was appointed Chelsea’s interim first-team manager last November was to get the best out of Fernando Torres, having done just that when the pair were at Liverpool. Yet there is now the increasing sense it will be on Benitez’s watch that the striker’s torturous spell at the club finally ends.
That was certainly the strongest conclusion to be drawn from this tie, during which Torres could only watch from the substitutes’ bench as Demba Ba shone on his debut for Chelsea following his €8.6 million arrival from Newcastle. The Senegal forward required only 61 minutes to register his first two goals for the Blues, which rather put into context the 14 games, or 732 minutes, Torres needed to get just one following his €60 million transfer from Anfield two years ago.
“For me it’s a great opportunity to manage two different strikers,” said Benitez as he stressed that Ba’s stellar start to his Chelsea career did not spell the end for Torres.
“It will be good for the team also because both players can score goals, and if they are fresh they can make a difference.”
But what boded particularly badly for Torres here was Ba’s overall contribution. The 27-year-old was always on the move, making runs that gave his team-mates a regular outlet, and in scoring his two goals – the first of which got the FA Cup holders on level terms after they had fallen behind to Jay Rodriguez’s opener, while the second increased their lead to 4-1 – showed muscular determination. Quite simply, he was everything Torres has not been for some time.
Asked if he would be happy to play alongside Torres, Ba gave a less than enthusiastic reply – “If I have to play with him, I’ll play” – and the general feeling is that is a scenario unlikely to take great shape at Stamford Bridge. This is principally because Benitez prefers his teams to have a lone focal point and also because of the effect reverting to a two-man attack would have on Chelsea’s midfield, in particularly on Juan Mata, who was once again outstanding here in a roaming role just off the striker.
The Spaniard set up Ba’s first goal on 35 minutes after skilfully moving into the Southampton area and lifting the ball over Artur Boruc, and then provided the cross for Branislav Ivanovic to make it 3-1. Either side of that goal, Victor Moses and Ba, again, also scored.
The seal on Chelsea’s win was applied by Frank Lampard’s 83rd-minute penalty, which brought him level with Kerry Dixon as Chelsea’s second all-time record scorer with 193 goals, nine behind Bobby Tambling. Reports emerged later the club are in discussions with Lampard’s representatives over a fresh contract.