Cast in unfamiliar role, Torres saves Chelsea's day
Brentford 2 Chelsea 2:Thank heavens for Fernando Torres. Chelsea were staring at FA Cup humiliation at the hands of League One opposition and Rafael Benitez was feeling the fury of the club’s travelling support when the striker, who has become synonymous with a failure to deliver when it really matters, cast off the shackles.
Benitez was prominent among the beneficiaries. His 78th-minute substitution of Branislav Ivanovic with Cesar Azpilicueta, one right back for another, as Chelsea trailed to Harry Forrester’s penalty, drew derision from the away enclosure.
Torres’s instinctive finish – right-footed into the far corner – painted happier headlines for Chelsea after Ballboy-gate and they could even have snatched it in injury-time when the substitute Juan Mata’s cross struck Harlee Dean’s hand only for the referee, John Moss, to ignore the penalty appeal.
However, defeat would have been awfully harsh on Brentford, who controlled the first half and contributed heavily to an engrossing tie. The intensity of their midfield trio was stirring and Shaleum Logan and Forrester caught the eye with their enterprise on the left flank.
Chelsea were dismal in the first half, creating nothing of note and struggling to piece together passes. Brentford looked as if they wanted it more, in front of their biggest home crowd in three decades and on a pitch that was the leveller of cup lore.
Ross Turnbull epitomised the Chelsea edginess. In for the injured Petr Cech, the goalkeeper had endured an early misunderstanding with John Terry, which resulted in him getting too close to the returning captain and picking up his back-pass.
Forrester lifted the free-kick over the crossbar. But when Forrester shot from distance before the interval, after the impressive Adam Forshaw had robbed Frank Lampard, Turnbull could only parry to the feet of Marcello Trotta, who ignited the occasion with his finish.
Benitez responded at half-time by sending on Mata for the anonymous Marko Marin, moving Oscar to the right and, presumably, instructing his team to show a bit of backbone.
He got the response that he wanted, with Chelsea starting to show purpose and their first equaliser duly arrived. It was a beauty.
Oscar came alive inside the area, showing his balance to wriggle past defenders before curling home with the outside of his right boot. Mata drew a smart save out of Simon Moore shortly afterwards and it looked as if Chelsea were primed to weather the storm.
But up stepped Clayton Donaldson, whose pass ushered in sub Tom Adeyemi and when he nicked the ball past Turnbull, he found himself impeded by the advancing Chelsea goalkeeper’s challenge. Chelsea complained about the lack of contact but Turnbull had been clumsy. He was booked and Forrester kept his nerve from the spot. Torres, however, stepped forward to save the day.