Aston Villa 2-4 Chelsea: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:30 01/04/12 By Martin Lipton
At first it was a hint, followed by a suspicion.
Then, at last, something concrete – two goals against Leicester, a vital assist in Lisbon.
And at Villa Park, with his final touch on an afternoon when he look destined to do everything but score, Fernando Torres struck.
Nervelessly, perfectly, with utter, unquestioned conviction, he shot across Shay Given and into the far corner before being buried beneath a mass of blue shirts.
There may be better days to come for the Spaniard. To be fair, given his £50million price-tag and the sheer weight of expectation from Roman Abramovich, there will have to be.
Indeed, his first top-flight goal since September was further evidence for some to suggest the Spaniard suffers from Seasonally Affected Disorder – given that all his Premier League goals for Chelsea have been scored in British Summer Time, not GMT.
Yet as the Blues left the West Midlands with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step, Torres was the man in the spotlight, the centre of attention, the key component of an attacking unit that is starting to function.
“It was an important goal for him,” said Branislav Ivanovic, whose own set-piece double owed much to the selfless movement of the man from Madrid.
“Fernando has been going well and playing well all over the pitch. He’s been doing everything for the team and I think he deserved that goal, and not just for the work he did against Villa and in midweek.
“He is a great player. Of course he has felt the pressure, so it was important for us to support him. He knows he’s had the support of all of us and that we will do everything we can for him.
“We know how good he is. We’ve seen that every day in training. At the same time, for him to score a goal was very important. But for us, we know how much he has given.
“He was involved in all four and that is Fernando’s good side. He doesn’t just play for himself, he plays for the team. After the game, he didn’t really say anything. But I went up to him and said, ‘Thank-you for the two assists!’”
Roberto Di Matteo was thankful, too, that Torres did not follow the example of too many of his team-mates and switch off when the game looked done and dusted.
Daniel Sturridge’s tap-in was followed by Ivanovic’s first but Marc Albrighton’s arrival sparked panic, punished by James Collins and Eric Lichaj, and hopes of a win for a Villa side lifted by the presence of leukaemia-stricken Stiliyan Petrov.
Then Ivanovic and Torres gave Villa that sinking feeling and Di Matteo said: “Strikers feed off goals but apart from that he’s been playing very, very well, assisting other goals.
“Fernando works so hard for the team and we are emphasising that the team is the most important aspect.
“He’s enjoying himself, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s confident like many other players as well. It was a terrific goal.” Di Matteo will be relieved Torres is sparkling again as Didier Drogba’s toe injury is expected to keep him out of Wednesday’s Champions League tie with Benfica.
But David Luiz should line-up against his former club after a precautionary early exit with an ankle ligament issue.
Villa boss Alex McLeish’s suggestion his young side – shorn of eight first-teamers – deserved more didn’t really wash.
Although his description of his side’s luck was a classic: “I think I’ve shot an albatross.”
In reality, Chelsea should have won at a canter rather than undergoing a nervy ending, as Ivanovic conceded.
“When you are 2-0 up and in control, maybe you start to think about the next game,” he said.
“We lost concentration. Probably that was the result of how many important games we’ve had in the last couple of weeks but the great thing was that we reacted to it.”