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Torres spurned penalty lifeline

JUAN MATA yesterday revealed that Fernando Torres turned down the chance to end his desperate quest for a Chelsea goal against Birmingham City on Tuesday night because he wasn't "first on the list" to take penalties.

Mata missed the spot-kick, in his side's 2-0 FA Cup victory – Chelsea's first game since the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas last Sunday – after offering it to Torres.

The £50million striker, who has not scored since October, refused to take it. “I asked him if he wanted to take it because he won the penalty,” Mata said. “Torres said, ‘I'm not first on the list to take it', so that's what happened.”

When asked if he was surprised that Torres turned down the opportunity to score, Mata replied: “I don't know. Robbie (Di Matteo) put up a piece of paper with who shoots penalties and that's what we did.”

Mata also admitted that he had been “sad” to see Villas-Boas leave Chelsea but said he was hopeful of a “new start” after the caretaker manager, Di Matteo, led the team to the quarter-finals and a home tie against Leicester City on March 18. Mata, who scored at St Andrew's, as well as missing his penalty, said he hoped Di Matteo could inspire a successful conclusion to a difficult season.

“It was important for the confidence of the team and it could be a new start,” he said, “the beginning of a good run of results for us.”

But the Spaniard was disappointed by the departure of Villas-Boas, who signed him from Valencia last summer.

“We were sad because it's always a difficult moment when a club changes its manager,” he said. “Andre was a very good manager and person and a very good person as well. We are very grateful to him.”