Torres sinks City’s hopes of a point with late goal
Mistakes by Nastasic and Hart gift the striker the 90th-minute winner
Chelsea’s Fernando Torres score’s his side’s second goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
It was about six seconds from time here when Fernando Torres buried Manchester City’s prospects and confirmed his personal renaissance. Pinball in midfield had culminated in Willian’s punt over a backtracking Matija Nastasic, the centre-half panicking as he stretched to nod back to Joe Hart. The Serb might have caught sight of his goalkeeper’s close proximity as he made contact on the edge of the area, then watched the ball loop over his team-mate whose sprint, mystifyingly, ended up carrying him well outside his penalty area. There was Torres, tearing beyond the visitors’ confused last line of defence and away from Martin Demichelis, to convert into the gaping net.
City players crumpled to the floor, Nastasic burying his face in the turf while Hart retrieved the ball from the net and could be seen screaming “keeper’s, f***ing keeper’s” in livid frustration. The pair were culpable but the Englishman had put himself in no position to collect, intercept or divert. He wore the look of a guilty man.
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 to celebrate with his son.
Torres’s performance summed up the Spaniard’s Chelsea career, veering as it did from the ridiculous to the sublime, though it was the manner in which he recovered from the former to serve up the latter that suggested that his inner strength has been restored.
The 29-year-old had been guilty of a dreadful miss on the half-hour, spooning over Ramires’s fine pass when free and alone near the penalty spot.
In the recent past a miss so glaring might have left him cowed, his display shrivelling thereafter. Here it served to galvanise. Within minutes he had embarrassed Gael Clichy with his pace across the grass, the full-back left gasping in his vapour trail, before squaring for Andre Schurrle to tap in a first Chelsea goal. Then there was the shot curled sumptuously on to the angle of post and bar as half-time approached that left Mourinho slumped over the wall in his dug-out, aghast that one of his players could be so bereft of fortune. This, after all, was a striker who had scored only once in the league – on last season’s final day – since December. Those manic celebrations at the end greeted the breaking of a drought.
“It was a fantastic performance and, even better, because it came after an easy goal was missed,” said Mourinho. “When a striker misses an easy chance, he can be affected for the rest of the game. But it was like that was the moment he decided he would be man of the match.”
Torres has been prolific in Europe this year, albeit largely in the Europa League, but it should be noted that his best performances under Mourinho have now come against sides of better quality: Bayern Munich in the Uefa SuperCup, Tottenham Hotspur in the league, Schalke in the Champions League in midweek and now City.