Torres breaks duck as Blues keep believing
CHELSEA 3 WEST HAM 0
Maybe the sudden downpour rekindled a painful memory, or perhaps the end of Fernando Torres' goal drought reinforced the view that momentum is swinging Chelsea's way.
Whatever the cause, Carlo Ancelotti evoked one of his worst management experiences as he argued Chelsea's title pursuit is not over, despite Manchester United's six-point lead.
"I lost a title after being nine points clear with eight games to go. It can happen," he said, recalling the year 2000, when Sven-Goran Eriksson's Lazio reeled in his Juventus to win the Serie A title.
The denouement was marked by controversy as a torrential storm delayed the second half of Juve's final match. Lazio, who had still been five points behind with four to play, had won their game by the time Juventus resumed and the pressure was too great for Ancelotti's side, who lost 1-0.
United, to judge from their defeat of Everton, show few signs of a similar collapse, but they are yet to play Chelsea and Arsenal, and still have the Champions League on their platter.
What price Torres, now he is scoring again, resuming his previous tormenting of United's centre-halves when the teams meet at Old Trafford on May 8?
Certainly no one at Stamford Bridge was dismissing the importance of the Spaniard's first goal in a Chelsea shirt, and his first in more than 12 hours' football.
The roar from the crowd is unlikely to be surpassed anywhere this season and the scorer was buried by all his team-mates bar Petr Cech, who was celebrating 100 yards away.
"I never seen this kind of reaction for a goal," said Ancelotti. "The fans really needed a goal by Fernando. Everyone is happy for him and it will be easy to play the next game.
"After the goal, he did two or three things that were a little bit lucky; before the goal he was very unlucky. I think that at that moment he has grown.
"Finally I have scored so there is less pressure on me," Torres said. "I hope this one will be the first of many. It's been a long time waiting. Now we will see if we can finish the season as strongly as possible. We know it's going to be hard, but we have belief."
None more so, to judge from the lifting of his shoulders, than Torres. The Spaniard's neat finish, swivelling to shoot after the ball stuck in a puddle, was instinctive and more goals should now follow.
Nevertheless, Ancelotti may well continue starting with Didier Drogba, whose superb pass to Ashley Cole set up Frank Lampard for the opening goal and was generally outstanding.
Drogba aside, West Ham had most of the best performances, with Jonathan Spector and Mark Noble covering for the loss of Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge shrugging off the abuse he received for not shaking John Terry's hand, and Demba Ba again showing what promise he has.
While the game was still in the balance, Freddie Sears (a bright display in a demanding wide-right role) and Manuel da Costa were denied by goal-line clearances and Robbie Keane missed a sitter.
Chelsea also had chances before Torres broke the dam and, as Hammers' hearts slumped, Florent Malouda added a cruel third. "If we continue to play like that again we'll get the points we need," said West Ham's Danny Gabbidon, "if we take our chances."
That, as Torres could tell him, is easier said than done. (© Independent News Service)