Benfica v Chelsea: Fernando Torres did everything but score in Champions League quarter-final

March 27th, 201211:53 pm @


The bottom line is that strikers, and especially strikers with the singular
instincts of Torres, and especially ones who have been purchased for £50m,
deal in goals. It’s their currency and their value no matter what else they
bring to the side.

It was a big call by Di Matteo to play Torres and it worked. But then Torres
was part of a big team selection by the Italian who benched Drogba, Frank
Lampard and Michael Essien — three of the so-called ‘old guard’ whose
exclusion at times this season caused so many difficulties for the former
manager Andre Villas-Boas. If he had gone into this encounter with this team
there would have been a shrill outcry.

As things stand Lampard, in particular, will not be happy and while Drogba
will, probably, also be displeased not to start such a prestigious occasion
his exclusion was understandable. He looked sluggish against Tottenham
Hotspur at the weekend, not bristling with the aggressive running that had
so highlighted his performance in that epic second-leg Champions League
triumph over Napoli.

Torres’ selection made sense. It took him more than five minutes to gain his
first touch of the ball — marginally over-hitting a cross. But soon after
and he was more effective in breaking down the other flank, only for his
centre to be blocked. He set off again immediately, once more running into
the channels to stretch the Benfica defence. It helped Chelsea’s cause that
Juan Mata was pushed nearer to Torres to support him as a second striker.

The home side were deeply disappointing, struggling to create opportunities
but when they did build up some pressure, it was Torres chasing down Emerson
and conceding a throw-in to break it up. However he then worked his way back
— only to pass the ball straight to Pablo Aimar.

Fortunately Torres didn’t allow it to affect him. He again ran the channels,
and this time superbly picked out Salomon Kalou who headed over.

Torres’ held his face in his hands. It was a good chance. Clearly it would
have been better for Chelsea, despite his problems before goal, for the
roles to have been reversed. By now and there was a greater urgency and
threat from Benfica and Torres became more isolated, as Mata fell back, and
he drifted to try and find space.

Maybe his frustration grew — he tugged back Jardel after mis-controlling — but
this was more about the result than an individual performance for Chelsea
who needed him to keep occupying the defenders and he did just that.

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