Non-scoring Torres key man in Chelsea victory
Chelsea 2 Bayer Leverkusen 0: When he ran at goal deep in injury time last night, you might reasonably have expected Fernando Torres to pull the trigger himself and try to end what has been a miserable run of games since April without a goal.
That he cut it back for Juan Mata to score tells us a little more about the £50m man who cannot buy a goal for Chelsea.
Scoring that late goal would have meant infinitely more to Torres than Mata, who scored on his debut for Chelsea, but Torres's unselfish pass changed the mood around the club's struggling striker. It was not the goal that his advocates were hoping for — but it was not too far off.
Before then this had been yet another game in which Torres was becoming the story again, for yet another hesitant performance.
No one needs a goal more than him but when it came to breaking the deadlock on a fraught night here it was David Luiz, the centre-back who thinks he is a centre-forward, who came to the rescue of Andre Villas-Boas with a second-half goal.
At that point no one at Chelsea needed reminding that the Brazilian defender now has three times the number of goals scored by Torres, the other player Chelsea signed in January.
That was despite Villas-Boas appearing to grant Torres his wish of a Chelsea team without the “old” and “slow” players cited in that now infamous interview about the team he gave while on international duty. In a break with time-honoured tradition at Chelsea, Frank Lampard and John Terry were both left out. Daniel Sturridge and Mata were in. This was new Chelsea.
Yet, with Torres failing to score, Villas-Boas was calling for Lampard and Nicolas Anelka from the bench just after the hour and within a minute of their introduction, Luiz had scored the opening goal.
To give Torres his due, it was also his assist for Luiz's goal. The two assists — in particular the second -- justified his inclusion but as a goalscorer he still looks a long way off the player Chelsea thought they were signing.
You could justify the omission of Terry and Lampard from last night's Chelsea team on a few grounds. Terry, not even on the bench, played every minute of both recent England games.
Lampard played most of the second match. Both of them are not getting any younger. And both of them, presumably, will be required to play against Manchester United on Sunday.
But the point about Lampard and Terry is that these two have historically always played every Chelsea game. By way of example, Terry even started in the club's only Carling Cup game last season and Lampard may well have done had he been fit at the time.
Last night Villas-Boas changed that by leaving them both out of the side for the club's first Champions League game of the season. It was another bold call from a manager who is marking himself out as a man prepared to make the big decisions.
After all these years, it takes a bit of getting used to watching Chelsea without their two old stalwarts. That is not to say that the decision was unjustified. They are both getting on and need conserving in a way that was not necessary when Villas-Boas was at the club for the first time with Jose Mourinho. Neither is quite as indispensable as he once was. But for the manager to be vindicated, his team needs to win.
Given Torres's frank observations on his team's approach to games that were the big issue going into the tie, it was inevitable that the eye was drawn to him.
If Torres is the vanguard of the new Chelsea then he needs to start scoring goals. An early two-footed lunge on Simon Rolfes, for which Torres was booked, told you that he was wound up tight.
Chelsea had a goal ruled out for offside after just four minutes when Raul Meireles backheeled Torres's earlier backheel into the goal. Even before then Bayer Leverkusen had one disallowed themselves, and that decision looked harsh.
The Germans came out stronger after the break and they should have scored. In fact, the best of the chances fell to Michael Ballack, returning to the club where the supporters retain a great fondness for him.
The old boy never scored many for Chelsea and when he ran onto a knockdown you did not really fancy his chances. Even so it needed a very good save from Petr Cech to stop him.