Chelsea stroll into final and a meeting with Corinthians
Monterrey 1 Chelsea 3: In many ways this was a glimpse of what awaits Chelsea in the new year: Thursday night football played to a murmur of noise and in front swathes of empty seats, and against opponents who appeared cowed by the whole experience. Yet, if the prospect of the Europa League fails to stir the senses as yet, a final in the Fifa Club World Cup on Sunday and the sight of Fernando Torres as a regular goalscorer should have the juices flowing.
This proved a stroll against Monterrey, the Mexican opposition deflated by the opening exchanges of the second period and pedestrian throughout, such a comfortable victory probably as therapeutic as their trip to the bowling alley to drive any lingering jet lag from the system.
The Brazilian champions, Corinthians, will provide a sterner test in the final, though they will confront a team whose conviction is rapidly returning. Those who booed whenever his image flickered across the big screens would shudder at the suggestion, and this was a mismatch that made judgment far from easy, but Rafael Benitez may slowly be having an effect.
Torres confirmed as much in the aftermath here. The forward is looking spritely again. Fed with regular opportunities, he has scored five in his last three matches, his best scoring sequence since joining the club almost two years ago.
“As a team we’re getting better and, individually, I feel much better now, scoring consistently,” said Torres. “We have had a hard time this season but, since Rafa Benitez came in, it is coming together and we are showing more determination.”
The forward’s reward here came within 19 seconds of the restart, a deflected finish over Jonathan Orozco doubling Chelsea’s lead.
As impressive was his dart and centre moments later, Juan Mata gathering at the far post to fire back across goal with Darvin Chavez putting into his own net.
They generated plenty here, their lead established early when Oscar’s clever backheel sent Ashley Cole scurrying into space, the full-back glancing up and then slipping a fine pass infield for the excellent Mata. The Spaniard was unmarked and took a touch before finishing classily beyond Orozco.