Fernando Torres: The anxiety is finally over
It took seven hundred and thirty minutes of club football but, eventually, it came. He was mocked, criticised, pitied, victimised and, in some sections, hated, but yesterday Fernando Torres went some way to putting all of that to rest. Yesterday, Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career began.
On his fourteenth appearance in the blue of Chelsea, Torres finally scored a goal. But it is not just the goal that will have pleased the Stamford Bridge faithful, the manager and the Spaniard’s teammates. Torres looked lively; he looked match-fit for the first time in a long time. Clearly, we don’t want to overreact to one goal just like everyone has done with the lack of goals but, in the same way, we don’t want to under-react.
Torres’ goal, a cool finish after a scrappy turn inside the West Ham penalty area, helped Carlo Ancelotti’s side to overcome a poor but determined Hammers side. The strike ended a goal drought of 903 minutes for both club and country. “There’s less pressure for me now. Now, I can enjoy it”, Torres said after the game, clearly with a huge weight lifted from his shoulders.
The relief could be felt from all around the ground. The traditional Torres knee slide into the corner was greeted with the biggest cheer of the evening. His teammates all piled on top of him, while the Chelsea coaching staff all stood on the touchline, applauding a player who they know will come good for them.
Torres joined from Liverpool in January for an astronomical price of £50 million. Immediately, he was derided by the majority of football fans, given that the former-Atletico Madrid talisman had had a difficult season with the Anfield club, therefore rendering the price tag even more preposterous. There was also the small matter of the complete lack of loyalty and class shown by Torres in the transfer.
But still, the criticism of Torres was unwarranted. Yes, he looked completely off the pace, his first touch virtually non-existent. He lacked the confidence to make runs into the right areas, looked unwilling to run with the ball never mind actually go past a player. Yesterday, Didier Drogba started up front, with Torres on the bench, and rightly so. Torres has been simply awful.
Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, this should have been expected. It would be difficult for any player to come into a side halfway through a season and fit right in. Torres had to adapt to a new a club in a new city, a new manager, new teammates, a new system. Many have questioned whether Torres can play in the 4-3-3 that Ancelotti favours – of course he can, it will just take time. Torres said it himself, post-match: “It’s never easy when you arrive in January at a massive team like this”
Torres may well have been carrying an injury this season, too. He had a relatively poor World Cup in South Africa and, when he came back to The Premier League, he didn’t look the sharp, deadly forward that Scousers once loved and defenders loathed. There was always the pressure, though, for Ancelotti to play him, given the transfer fee and possibly pressure from above. Why would Roman Abromovic spend £50 million on a player to watch him sit on the bench, or even in the treatment room?
All of this makes the notion that Torres was expected to come in and fire Chelsea to the title somewhat ridiculous; it was never going to happen. Next season, though, will be different for Torres. He’ll have settled in properly, gained a better understanding with his teammates and learnt how to work in the Chelsea system.
Torres will get twenty goals next season, no doubt about it. All of those who were laughing at him, or willing him on, or simply just feeling sorry for him, can all now sit back and watch a master at work – Fernando Torres is back.
Fernando Torres went some way to laying his many ghosts to rest yesterday as he scored his first Chelsea goal in a 3-0 win over West Ham.
Fernando Torres went some way to laying his many ghosts to rest yesterday as he scored his first Chelsea goal in a 3-0 win over West Ham.
Premier League round-up: Matchday 34
Sunderland return to winning ways while Arsenal fade again
A round-up of all the scores and scorers from the Premier League, matchday 34.
“If there is somebody to blame, it is me.” Those were the words of Arsene Wenger after his Arsenal side all-but-ended their Premier League title hopes with a 2-1 loss at Bolton.
A late Tamir Cohen goal compounded The Gunners to defeat but, in truth, the game at The Reebok summed up Arsenal’s season – lots of wasted chances, and punished for it. Daniel Sturridge gave Bolton the lead in the first half and Kevin Davies could have doubled it early in the second half, Wojciech Szczesny saving the striker’s penalty. Robin Van Persie did equalise for Arsenal just a minute later but Cohen popped up in the last minute, heading home to send Bolton 8thand leave Arsenal nine points behind Manchester United with four games to go.
Arsenal knew that they had to win to at least keep the pressure on United and second-placed Chelsea, who recorded a comfortable victory over West Hamat Stamford Bridge, with a certain Spanish striker finally finding the net.
Frank Lampard put The Blues in front in the first half, smashing home from inside the box and, with Robbie Keane and Carlton Cole both wasting excellent chances for West Ham, Fernando Torres showed them how to do it, clumsily turning inside the area (mainly due to the fact that the pitch was sodden, almost Sunday league-like) and finishing well. Florent Malouda rounded off an emphatic victory, firing in from twenty-five yards to leave West Ham bottom of the table, but only two points from safety.
Leaders Manchester United also recorded a win on Saturday but they too wasted chances – although superb defending from Everton, in particular Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, kept them at bay for large periods. It was another late goal, though, that moved United ever-closer to that treasured 19thLeague title – Mexican Javier Hernandez heading in from two yards after fine wing-work from Antonio Valencia.
Valencia’s former club, Wigan, were the victims of a rousing Sunderland victory at The Stadium of Light, despite The Black Cats struggling with injuries. Danny Welbeck, Phil Bardsley and Asamoah Gyan were all forced off for Steve Bruce’s side but a powerful performance from Jordan Henderson and an impressive display from Stephane Sessegnon guided the North-East side to their first win in ten matches.
Mohamad Diame did put The Latics in front with a superb 30-yard strike but Gyan equalised, nodding home a header at the near-post. Henderson then fired the hosts in front with a great finish from twelve yards before Sessegnon won and then converted a penalty to put Sunderland 3-1 up. Sessegnon then turned provider, giving Henderson his second goal of the game, before Franco Di Santo scored from close-range as a consolation. Sunderland now sit 10th, seven points above 18th placed Wigan, although Bruce insisted after the match that Sunderland were not safe.
The side below Wigan, Wolves, failed to overcome Fulham as the sides settled for a 1-1 draw. Steven Fletcher scored for Wolves but Andrew Johnson equalised late on for the London club. Hughes was sent to the stands during the game after his furious reaction to a booking.
Another relegation-threatened side, Blackpool, were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw but can be aggrieved as three decent penalty shouts were all turned down. Newcastle’sPeter Lovenkrands capitalised on Blackpool mistakes to smash in from twenty-five yards, but DJ Campbell equalised with a clever flick.
The third 1-1 draw of the weekend came at Villa Park where, after Kenwyne Jones had given Stoke the lead, Darren Bent equalised with a superb header to earn Aston Villa a point, with manager Gerard Houllier absent from the match due to being in hospital.
Tottenham’s hopes of reaching that coveted fourth spot were practically ended as they drew 2-2 with a resilient West Brom. Peter Odemwingie did give The Baggies the perfect start but Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe, scoring his 100th goal for the club, soon turned things around for Spurs. An exquisite goal from Simon Cox, though, meant that all was square at White Hart Lane.
Birmingham City put in a lacklustre display but all credit must go to Liverpool for what was a fine performance – Maxi Rodriguez scoring a hat-trick, with Dirk Kuyt and Joe Cole getting on the scoresheet to send Liverpool to an emphatic 5-0 win. Birmingham’s defending was shambolic, but all the more painful to watch due to Liverpool’s quick movement and fine finishing.
Manchester City face Blackburn tonight to round off matchday 34.
Matchday 34 results: Manchester United 1-0 Everton; Chelsea 3-0 West Ham; Sunderland 4-2 Wigan; Wolves 1-1 Fulham; Blackpool 1-1 Newcastle; Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham; Tottenham 2-2 West Brom; Villa 1-1 Stoke.
Matchday 35 fixtures: Blackburn-Bolton; Blackpool-Stoke; Chelsea-Tottenham; Sunderland-Fulham; West Brom-Aston Villa; Wigan-Everton; Birmingham-Wolves; Liverpool-Newcastle; Arsenal-Manchester United; Manchester City-West Ham.
EPL: Gera could go, says Mark Hughes
“Hopefully we can persuade him to stay”, says Hughes
Zoltan Gera could leave Fulham this summer with manager Mark Hughes unable to guarantee the Hungarian midfielder first team football.
Fulham manager Mark Hughes has admitted that Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera could leave the club this summer as the Welshman is unable to guarantee the former-West Brom maestro first team football.
Gera has made just ten Premier League starts this season and has only managed two assists, with his solitary goal of the season coming against Manchester City in November.
Gera has barely featured under Welshman Hughes in 2011, making just seven appearances from the bench, and the midfielder, who also likes to operate on the wing, has refused to sign a new contract, with his current deal coming to an end this summer.
Hughes, though, looks set to make a late bid to keep Gera at the club, reports The Fulham Chronicle: “I will have a conversation with him to see where we are. He will probably wait until the end of the season to see what’s on offer, but hopefully we can persuade him to stay.”
Hughes continued: “He wants more first-team football and, at the moment, I can’t guarantee that to anybody.”
This season, Hughes has preferred to use Dickson Etuhu, Clint Dempsey and Simon Davies, with Moussa Dembele playing just in front of the midfield, and Gera has struggled to break into the first team side, despite making thirty-eight League appearances last season under Roy Hodgson. Gera was named Fulham Player of the Season last term, largely down to his vital goals in their Europa League campaign.
Fulham currently sit 12th in The English Premier Leaguewith six games to go but are only five points above the relegation zone after what has been a largely underwhelming season for The Cottagers.
Gera, who has been named Hungarian Player of the Year three times and has made seventy-one appearances for his national side, is clearly unhappy with how he has fallen down the pecking order so quickly under the new manager. Gera revealed last week that he intended to run down his contract, while his agent revealed that a move to another English club was not entirely impossible.
“It is not impossible at all that Zoltan stays in England,” Vladan Filipovic told Hungarian station Digi Sport Television. “We’re open to any possibilities; it can be that he stays in England in case of a good opportunity. Gera still has a lot in his career, four or five good years.”
Greek side Olympiakos are also rumoured to be interested in the thirty-one-year-old and, one would imagine, many Premier League clubs would be attracted to a player who can play all across the midfield and just off the striker; his ability to use both feet and quickness of movement will also be big selling points.
Elsewhere in Premier League transfer news (the summer transfer window is getting closer so prepare yourself for many, many transfer stories over the coming months), Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez is rumoured to want out of the club, with The Telegraph claiming that City are ready to sell their captain to Inter Milan or Juventus, who are apparently waiting in the wings for the Argentinean.
Tevez has stated before that he feels homesick and would like to move somewhere closer to home, instantly making the former-Manchester United forward a prime transfer target. The lack of quotes and actual naming of sources in the linked article, though, make me a little sceptical regarding the validity of the story. No offence, Mark Ogden.
EPL: Title race not over – Ancelotti
Ancelotti insists the Premier League title race is not over yet
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the Premier League title race is not yet over, after his side defeated Birmingham 3-1 last night.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the Premier League title race is not over after seeing his side comfortably defeat Birmingham 3-1 on Wednesday night.
With Tottenham and Arsenal playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw at White Hart Line and Manchester United drawing 0-0 with Newcastle United on Tuesday, Chelsea now find themselves in second position, above The Gunners on goal difference.
United are six points ahead of both Chelsea and Arsenal but have to face both sides in the coming weeks, but Ancelotti knows that the title is pretty much United’s to lose:
“We are six points behind and it will not be easy to close that. Our aim is to win every game and after that see how our position is. It will not be easy but that is our aim,” Ancelotti said, according to the BBC.
The Italian manager continued: “We have to believe until the referee whistles for the end of the game.”
Two goals from Florent Malouda and one Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea victory over Birmingham, with a Sebastian Larsson penalty their only reply, but, elsewhere in London, one of the games of the season was taking place.
First half goals from Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie (for Arsenal) and Rafael Van der Vaart and Tom Huddlestone for Tottenham meant that the North London derby had seen five goals in a frantic first forty-five minutes.
Van der Vaart scored a penalty with twenty minutes to go and, while Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said it “was a great game to be involved in”, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger remained adamant that his side will continue to fight for the title.
The Frenchman said: “They have an outstanding attitude. We’ll fight like mad for the next game. We can do it”.
These articles originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now defunct.