FERNANDO TORRES SCORED his first hat-trick for Chelsea as the Blues thrashed QPR 6-1 at Stamford Bridge. The striker has been steadily improving under Roberto di Matteo -- scoring goals and providing assist regularly since the Italian became the manager -- but this performance has announced to the world, loud and clear, that the old Torres, the goal-scoring machine, is back.
Of course, it was his finishing, which came with revived confidence, that put the ball in the net but his off-the-ball movement in all three goals was superb. Let's take a closer look at these three goals.
The First Goal
|Picture 1. The First Goal|
Of the three goals he scored, this one's my favorite. Torres (gold star) dropped off to the halfway line to collect a pass from Bosingwa. With Mata (central) and Kalou (right) ahead of him, Torres was almost in the right midfield position when he made the forward pass to Mata. At this piont, there were three QPR defenders in their last defensive line. But as Mata moved toward the right, dragging a defender with him, a large gap was formed between the last two QPR defenders. Torres ran into this space full speed.
When finally Kalou slipped a through-ball (great first-time pass by the way) into the path of his run, Torres had already beaten his marker after covering about 50-yard distance. Chelsea number 9 beat QPR keeper with his first touch and scored with his second. Intelligence, speed and confidence were key to this goal.
The Second Goal
|Picture 2. The Second Goal|
There was an element of luck involved in this goal (i.e. QPR keeper fumbling the back header from his defender), but it came at the end of a very patient build-up from Chelsea. After a QPR corner was cleared, Sturridge recovered the ball; this was the beginning of a minute long possession play involving 19 passes in total.
With the 17th pass of this build-up, Kalou found Mata in the central area (Note the Kalou-Mata involvement, which you have seen for the first goal and will see for the third goal too). This time, Torres (gold star) was up ahead, slightly on the left. He made the run into the box as Mata lobbed a pass forward. Onuoha got to the ball first but the pressure from Torres forced the defender to head the ball back to his keeper who dropped it into Torres' very happy feet. He did have a passing option in Kalou, who was at the edge of the six-yard box, but the confident Torres had only one thing on his mind -- goal.
The Third Goal
|Picture 3. The Third Goal|
An interception by Frank Lampard in Chelsea's box started this counter attack. Kalou's pass found Mata near the center circle. As Torres began to make a sneaky run in behind the QPR defense, Mata delivered the ball right into Torres' run. The understanding between the two Spaniards is very clear. Terry who was determined to answer his critics made it all the way into QPR box but Torres calmly cut onto his right and guided the ball into the far corner. Hat trick completed.
QPR'S DEFENDING WAS very poor in this game but that should not take anything away from Fernando Torres' first hat trick for Chelsea. His movement off-the-ball was smart. He used his pace and power to get the better of his markers. And he scored with confidence and calmness. The timing of his resurgent form could not be better for Chelsea as they try to win the last five remaining games of this long season with two trophies and a Champions League spot on the line.
Carefree, wherever you may be...