Saturday 17 March 2018

Ba makes instant impact as 'gloomy' Torres looks on from bench

Southampton 1 Chelsea 5

Oliver Brown

Demba Ba, flushed with the euphoria from his two-goal debut, gave the type of broad, uncomplicated smile that could help to quell the mutinous mutterings among Chelsea supporters.

"When you see the fans showing that they're happy for you, it's a good feeling," said the Senegalese striker, whose brace against a feeble Southampton kindled hope for the FA Cup holders of a fifth triumph in this competition in seven seasons.

Thrust into the lone forward's role 24 hours after completing his £7m move from Newcastle, Ba needed a mere 61 minutes to register his first and second goals in Chelsea colours.

By way of comparison, Fernando Torres, watching on gloomily from the substitutes' bench, had needed a little less than eight months to amass the same total.

With such a dismal return from Torres – who has managed only 26 goals in almost two years since his £50m transfer to Chelsea – the battle lines could not have been more starkly drawn by Ba's instant impact.

While Ba has ostensibly been drafted in to give the Spaniard some games off, there is every chance, if he sustains the type of form he displayed at St Mary's, that he might not be content with playing the understudy's role for long.

As the new boy in the blue parish, Ba was careful to be diplomatic. Pressed on whether he felt he could be part of the same team as Torres, the 27-year-old replied: "Ask the manager. If I have to play with him, I'll play. If I have to be on the bench, I'll wait for my chance and then I'll prove that I can play. That's it."

When Ba headed in his second after latching onto Eden Hazard's cross, Torres' face on the videos was a picture of the bleakest displeasure.

Ba illustrated in this comfortable victory that he could be a more orthodox, direct centre-forward than Torres, supplying two clinical finishes that, allied to further goals by Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard, took Chelsea out of sight and into the fourth round.

But the win was still not sufficient to placate the club's restive fanbase, who showed new levels of capriciousness by taunting Benitez with chants of "Fat Spanish waiter" and "There's only one Di Matteo". Those same Chelsea fans will be upset by the news that the club have not held any conversations with Frank Lampard about offering a new contract to the 34-year-old midfielder.

Lampard moved alongside Kerry Dixon as Chelsea's second all-time leading scorer on 193 goals when he converted a penalty against the Saints.

Fans in the away end chanted "Sign him up" from the first whistle to the last, but owner Roman Abramovich has resolved to dispense with Lampard no matter how many goals he scores in the remainder of the season.

Benitez has no power to force the issue either, despite Lampard's three goals in the last three games under his watch.

The Spaniard said: "I know they have conversations sometimes, but the main thing for me is to bring the best from him. My job is to keep him doing well."

Should, as seems highly likely, a deal with Chelsea prove impossible, then Lampard will have no shortage of potential destinations in the summer. Leading the queue to sign him would be LA Galaxy, eager for a marquee name to replace David Beckham. Lampard and his fiancee, TV presenter Christine Bleakley, were engaged in Los Angeles in June 2011.

Lampard looked visibly emotional as he celebrated his 193rd Chelsea goal in the win at St Mary's.

"Maybe I was a little bit," he said. "I am enjoying my football, I have to say. I know there is a lot of talking going around but I am really enjoying playing. That's what it is all about, so even if there are certain things going on in your head, when I run out there and the fans support me the way they do, it can't help but make you a bit emotional."

His latest strike took him to within nine of the all-time Chelsea record of 202, set by Bobby Tambling. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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