Torres back with a bang as Chelsea roll over poor Genk
Chelsea 5 Genk 0
Chelsea fans turned up but the opposition didn't. For all the talk of a boycott over ticket prices, the Bridge was practically full to see Chelsea record their biggest home win in the Champions League, destroying Belgian visitors who resembled not so much minnows as plankton.
The plaudits will be shared by Fernando Torres, who scored twice and looked his old, swaggering predatory self, and Raul Meireles, whose exceptionally creative performance was rewarded with a goal, but another of Andre Villas-Boas' players also caught the eye.
Oriol Romeu looked a real force in central midfield, breaking up Genk's few attacks. He can tackle and pass, another star from the fabled Barcelona production line.
The visitors were woeful, devoid of ambition and wretched in defence. The only defiance came from Genk's terrific fans, who sang throughout, including word-perfect versions of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life'.
Chelsea were two goals to the good within 10 minutes, four clear by the break and enjoying huge swathes of space in the centre.
Torres, elegantly released by Meireles, even struck a post early on before Villas-Boas' side really found their range. This time it was Meireles racing through, taking three touches before sweeping a 25-yarder past Laszlo Koteles: 1-0.
Genk were missing good players like Jeroen Simaeys and Nadson but nothing could excuse their lack of concentration. Chelsea came calling again, this time Frank Lampard inviting Torres to run through the middle before placing the ball calmly past Koteles: 2-0.
The Belgian fans, who clearly own an English football songbook, were showing more defiance than their defence, taunting the locals with "2-0 -- and you still won't sing". Another goal soon arrived. Meireles was roaming upfield unchecked time after time, on this occasion racing down the right and lifting in a centre that Torres steered confidently with a well-directed header past Koteles: 3-0.
Meireles' freedom to drift and create was afforded by a diligent shift in deep midfield by Romeu, building on the promising impression he made against Fulham in the Carling Cup.
Romeu's dexterity at winning back possession contrasted with David Luiz, who dived in rashly on Jelle Vossen, and was booked. The Brazilian was living dangerously, again flying in on opponents.
Torres was excellent, brimming with movement and belief. Always a confidence player, Torres was all silky touch here, a creature of instinct again.
Chelsea finished the half with a flourish. When Daniel Pudil brought down Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda curled in a free-kick from the right that Branislav Ivanovic headed in: 4-0.
It was little surprise that Mario Been acted at the break. The Belgians' coach removed the hapless Argentinian centre-half Abel Masuero, pulling Khaleem Hyland back into defence and stiffening midfield with Fabien Camus, a reminder that Genk really were the Outsiders.
Still the chances came. Lampard could easily have had a penalty. Romeu showed he is more than just a defensive midfielder, advancing and demanding a low save from Koteles.
Villas-Boas twisted again midway through the half, taking off Lampard, putting Salomon Kalou on the left wing and redeploying Malouda in central midfield.
Just when it seemed that Chelsea might have declared, Kalou struck. Torres was denied at close range by Koteles but the ball fell to Kalou, who stroked the dropping ball home: 5-0.
Villas-Boas then sent on Alex, whose accuracy from range is well noted. Such was Genk's incompetence that Chelsea fans exhorted Alex to "shoot" even when the Brazilian was deep in his own half. He soon had a free-kick opportunity, only 35 yards out, which failed to avoid the wall.
Chelsea were attacking down every avenue, with Ivanovic soon marauding forward.
To the utter joy of their wonderful fans, Genk earned a late free-kick which inevitably whistled over. The final whistle soon arrived, keeping Chelsea top and on course for the far more demanding realm of the knockout stages. (© Daily Telegraph, London)