LONDON: Rafa Benitez was rushed in to manage Chelsea in the hope both of halting their slide and in finding a way to restore Fernando Torres – and both those aims are being achieved.
Torres scored twice in midweek in the 6:1 win over Nordsjaelland as the Blues bowed out of the Champions League. He then claimed another double – including a penalty he insisted on taking – in their 3:1 win at Sunderland in the Premier League.
The £50m Spaniard also provided the assist for Juan Mata’s goal with a shot which rebounded down off the bar.
Benitez, explaining the positive upturn for both team and star striker, said: “One of the ideas we had was to increase the tempo and not only keep the ball but move it forward as quick as possible for Fernando and the other attacking players.
“We are now watching a Fernando with more confidence and more belief. I have always said that if the team play well and create chances then he will score goals. He knows the movement I want from him. Little by little we are adjusting things . . . if we go on playing better he will score more goals.”
Torres said he was happy with both the goals which ended his nine-match goalless league run and confirmed how a change in style suited his game.
He said: “We don’t pass the ball as much in the final third and we are trying to play more directly and exploit our pace in attack with me and the other two. Normally it takes times when a new manager comes in but these two results will give us more confidence.”
Chelsea were without still-injured captain John Terry as they flew to Japan over the weekend for the final stages of the FIFA Club World Cup. Their fans are still unhappy with the appointment of Benitez but the distaste will ease further if the Blues come home as champions of the world.
Redknapp men’s record
At the other end of the Premier League Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers secured a 2-2 draw at Wigan but have become the first club in Premier League history to remain without a win after their opening 16 games.
Ryan Nelsen equalised James McCarthy’s first-half opener to make it 1-1 at half-time but Djibril Cisse raised away hopes when he put the visitors ahead after 71 minutes. The lead lasted barely two minutes as McCarthy converted Jean Beausejour’s pass.
Mikel Arteta converted two penalties as Arsenal returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion. Arteta shot home the first in the opening half to make amends for his miss against Fulham though the visitors protested that Santi Cazorla had fooled referee Mike Jones with his fall.
Jones was certainly correct in the second half when he ruled Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been fouled in the area and Arteta beat Boaz Myhill again.
Norwich extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches after beating Swansea 4-3 in a dramatic match at the Liberty Stadium. Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt gave Norwich a 3-0 half-time lead but Swansea hit back through Michu and Jonathan de Guzman after the break.
Robert Snodgrass calmed the nerves of the away support with the Canaries’ fourth before Michu scored the hosts’ third at the death. It was the Spaniard’s 11th goal of term which lifted them into the sole role of the league’s top scorer.
Promoted Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone after edging past Reading 1-0 at St Mary’s Stadium. Nathaniel Clyne found Jason Puncheon just after the hour and he beat Adam Federici from the penalty spot to earn a win that lifted Saints up to 15th.
Aston Villa are just two points above the relegation zone after being held 0-0 at home by a Stoke side who finished with 10 men after the late expulsion of Ryan Shotton.
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