Wednesday 13 November 2019

Torres back with bang as Chelsea find stylish edge

Chelsea 2
Newcastle 0

Chelsea finally seem to be providing an answer to the question, 'What does Roman Abramovich want?'.

For years, Abramovich craved the European Cup. In May that arrived in improbable circumstances with an even more improbable manager. Now Roberto di Matteo's side are also playing the type of attacking football the owner has always desired since the spring evening in 2003 when he watched Real Madrid knock Manchester United out of the Champions League.

None of it makes sense when the story of last season is retold. It was Andre Villas-Boas who was supposed to be providing this story, not Di Matteo. It may be that Di Matteo does not survive too long. Chelsea look like a team built to woo Pep Guardiola. Then again, nobody survives too long at Stamford Bridge.

For the moment, even in the thunderstorm that hung over the ground yesterday, it looks like the summer will last forever. Chelsea might have been too open in their previous games, but yesterday they barely gave Newcastle a chance. "I was very pleased with the performance," Di Matteo said. "We are trying to change a little bit."

Alan Pardew said they looked very much like the old Chelsea, solid and hard to beat. It was a surprise that Pardew's side couldn't create the opportunities that Wigan and Reading had in Chelsea's previous games. The Chelsea fans won't worry about any weakness at the back, not now anyway.

Yesterday the Fernando Torres they have been waiting for since January 2011 gave another indication that he'd finally arrived in London. Torres won the penalty which brought Chelsea's opening goal and combined with the devastating Eden Hazard -- who had dispatched the Chelsea penalty brilliantly -- to score a fantastic second.

The signing of Hazard in the summer was the most spectacular demonstration of Chelsea's intentions. Abramovich has kept spending money and before the game, the latest two signings, Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, were introduced to the crowd.

Abramovich hasn't been sated by the dramatic victory in Munich, and on the early season evidence he has a side that will provide the entertainment he demands.

Newcastle had their own spectacular performance at Stamford Bridge last season, but the hero on that night, Papiss Cisse, was quiet yesterday. Afterwards Pardew confirmed that he would like to sign Andy Carroll but said it was a financial decision that would be made above him. Privately he is said not to be optimistic about signing the player.

Pardew may have been able to make several changes from the side that had played less than 48 hours earlier in the Europa League in Greece, but it was still a disruption too close to last night's game. "A professional player cannot play at the same level after two days," Pardew said afterwards, complaining that the Notting Hill Carnival had prevented the game being played today.

The injured Cheick Tiote was badly missed. His replacement Vurnon Anita, signed from Ajax 10 days ago, appeared too eager to replicate the job Tiote does. His rashness led to the opening goal when he lashed out with a wild and unnecessary kick at Torres' right knee. "Torres made a big meal of it," Pardew claimed later, but the penalty award was the right decision.

Before that, Anita had displayed his determination with a hefty challenge on Juan Mata but all the early signs were that when Chelsea got close to goal, Newcastle would be unable to stop their movement.

Torres' enthusiasm was evident in how he chased and worked up front in his own. He was unlucky to be booked later in the first half when Phil Dowd felt he had dived after a challenge from Fabricio Coloccini. Newcastle had come more into the game after Hazard's penalty had given Chelsea the lead. It was his first goal for Chelsea but he has been at the centre of everything.

Before their second, there were a couple of moments of encouragement for Newcastle. Hatem Ben Arfa was moving inside and trying to create but there was little cohesion. When David Luiz tried to run the ball out from the back, he lost possession and Cisse tried a snapshot. Before half-time, the game was as good as over as Torres and Hazard combined magically. Torres picked up the ball 25 yards out and played it to Hazard on the edge of the box. He backheeled the ball into Torres' path and the Spaniard finished beautifully with the outside of his foot.

Given their defensive weaknesses, Chelsea should have expected to be under more pressure, but Newcastle offered little. Hazard and Mata again offered more examples of their gifts in the second half without ever really cutting the visitors open, and Ryan Bertrand went close with a long-range shot.

The rain continued to fall but and as the ball zipped around, Pardew felt his side created the chances in the second half to get back in the game. Both fell to Demba Ba and he couldn't do anything with them. Yet Chelsea never looked too anxious.

Under Mourinho, Chelsea would often close out a game 2-0. This is a very different side but if they can master that art too then Abramovich may be the man who has everything.

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