Torres and Terry keep Chelsea’s Europa League ambitions alive
3-1 victory ensures first-leg deficit is overturned
Fernando Torres misses from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Round at Stamford Bridge
at Stamford Bridge
The European champions demonstrated their determination to remain in continental competition by battling past Steaua Bucharest to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.
Chelsea trailed 1-0 from the first leg and looked on the verge of elimination at half-time as Juan Mata’s 33rd-minute goal was followed by a Vlad Chiriches strike that restored the Romanians’ lead.
However, John Terry and Fernando Torres scored in the second half to ensure Rafael Benitez’s side progressed. The win spares Chelsea’s blushes but adds to their workload, as their presence in the quarter-final, along with their FA Cup replay against Manchester United, means they will have to contest three matches in six days in late March and early April.
Benitez’s team selection suggested this was not a tournament he was willing to sacrifice.
Torres started instead of the Cup-tied Demba Ba and Terry replaced Gary Cahill in central defence. Otherwise it was the same Chelsea side that staged a second-half fightback in Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford. Steaua were able to name the same team that triumphed last wee.
[/CROSSHEAD]Boos have been prominent at Stamford Bridge this season and they resounded around the ground again as the travelling supporters showed their disdain for Chelsea’s search for an early aggregate equaliser.
They need not have worried, as Steaua’s dynamic pressing prevented the hosts from creating chances in the opening 10 minutes.
Indeed, Steaua should have opened the scoring from their first attack, when Mikel John Obi was dispossessed midway inside his own half and Terry failed to cut out a through-ball to Raul Rusescu, who scampered through on goal, only to be denied by Petr Cech’s agility.
Chelsea finally forced Steaua’s goalkeeper into action in the 16th minute, when Ciprian Tatarusanu comfortably collected a Mata free-kick. Steaua, increasingly confident as Chelsea struggled to match their energy, broke straight down the other end and Alexandru Bourceanu curled a 25-yard shot just wide.
This was not a side that had come solely to cling on to their first-leg lead. Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s chief early threat. In the 22nd minute he dribbled down the right before setting up a shot on target from Mikel. Tatarusanu repelled the Nigerian’s 20-yard drive. When Chelsea eventually raised their intensity, they got a goal.
But Chelsea knocked off early for half-time and Steaua punished them. A 45th-minute corner was poorly dealt with by the hosts, with Torres and Ramires failing to get decisive touches at the near post, leaving Cristian Tanase to shoot from close range. Cech scrambled that effort off the line but Chiriches reacted first to slam the ball into the roof of the net .
It took a set-piece in the 58th minute for Chelsea to edge back in front, Terry heading into the net from seven yards after a Mata free-kick from the left. Guardian Service