Torres revels as Chelsea seize initiative

Spanish striker nets a double to give Chelsea the edge over Rubin Kazan

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres scores the opening goal of the game against Rubin Kazan during the Europa League quarter-final first leg. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Image  Chelsea’s Fernando Torres  scores the opening goal of the game against Rubin Kazan during the Europa League quarter-final first leg. Photograph:  Clive Rose/Getty Image

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres scores the opening goal of the game against Rubin Kazan during the Europa League quarter-final first leg. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Image Chelsea’s Fernando Torres scores the opening goal of the game against Rubin Kazan during the Europa League quarter-final first leg. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Image

 

The Spanish striker has enjoyed too few evenings like this since his British record move from Merseyside but, clad in Chelsea blue and confronting a Rubin Kazan side made to look defensively feeble, he revelled in this occasion. His team have a two-goal advantage to take to Russia, and Torres a brace to savour.

How he must crave facing opponents this accommodating every week. The 29-year-old terrorised his markers here, all clever movement and pace on the turf and even power in the air. When Chelsea were growing vaguely frustrated, his compatriot Juan Mata, as effervescent as ever on what has been a slog of a season, floated over a centre to by-pass Cristian Ansaldi and Cesar Navas for Torres to head powerfully beyond Sergei Ryzhikov and the jitters felt eased.

That was actually a 17th goal of term, with time still to swell that tally further. Certainly, this first leg advantage offers hope of progress into the Europa League’s semi-final.

The urgency with which the home side had torn into opponents with a reputation for stinginess – in terms of defensive mindset rather than their transfer outlay – had reflected the need to chisel out an advantage to take to Russia next week.

While Kazan are still simmering at having to play the return on the artificial turf at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, rather than at their own Tsentrainiy stadium 500 miles further east, where they are unbeaten in 18 Uefa matches, it will still be an awkward occasion in the capital. Chelsea craved breathing space and a lead upon which they could cling.

Interval approached
As the interval approached they had appeared on course to achieve that only for their dominance to be eroded by Bebras Natcho’s spot-kick, slammed beyond Petr Cech after John Terry had handballed.

That felt harsh, the centre-half having sought to block Cristian Ansaldi's shot with his chest with the ball crashing instead on to the captain’s armband. If there was an argument for the award, the caution that followed felt unnecessary.

But by then Torres had done the damage. He had already out-muscled Roman Sharonov on the turn once when David Luiz pumped an optimistic ball forward just after the quarter-hour mark which cut out both Sharonov and his struggling right-back, Vitali Kaleshin. Torres collected on the stretch, the retreating Sharonov tumbling in on the edge of the six-yard box out of desperation, with the Spaniard reacting quickest to prod the loose ball home.

Rubin never recovered and when Moses dispatched a glorious half-volley into the top corner from just inside the penalty area with Ryzhikov static and helpless, the game was up.

Jose Rondon's introduction at the interval added more presence to their front-line and there was a sharp in-take of breath when he gathered Natcho’s pass and eked himself a sight at goal, but Cech gathered at the second attempt.

Then came Torres to calm the nerves and secure Chelsea some comfort.
Guardian Service