Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Torres brace gives Blues victory

Fernando Torres, right, scored twice in the first half for Chelsea

Fernando Torres handed Rafael Benitez a first Barclays Premier League victory as Chelsea manager as he ended his personal drought in style with a 3-1 win at Sunderland.

The Spaniard capped a powerful start for the Blues by firing them into an 11th-minute lead - scoring his first league goal since October 6 - and he made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time by converting a penalty awarded for Sebastian Larsson's trip on Ramires.

Only the woodwork prevented him from completing a hat-trick inside 49 minutes, but Juan Mata rifled in the loose ball to end the game as a contest. Adam Johnson scored Sunderland's consolation in the 66th minute.

There were just two minutes on the clock when Eden Hazard ran on to Mata's stunning pass but just as he prepared to shoot, he had his arm tugged by the covering Sebastian Larsson.

It was enough to throw the striker off balance and keeper Simon Mignolet took advantage to smother the ball with referee Mark Halsey allowing play to continue and sparing Larsson an inevitable red card, much to the annoyance of the Belgian.

Having ridden their luck during the early stages, the Black Cats finally succumbed with 11 minutes played when, after Carlos Cuellar had rashly attempted to nick the ball ahead of Torres on the halfway line and failed, the visitors broke at pace.

Victor Moses raced away before picking out Hazard wide on the left, and when he crossed to the near post, Torres arrived right on cue to turn it into the net.

Disaster struck deep into injury time for the hosts when Sweden international Larsson decided not to shepherd David Luiz into touch, instead needlessly going to ground and taking the Chelsea man with him. Halsey pointed straight to the spot, guaranteeing himself a chorus of boos at the break, and Torres obliged from 12 yards.

Any hopes of a fightback were dashed within four minutes of the restart when Phil Bardsley miscontrolled a cross and the ball ran to Torres, who was denied a hat-trick by the crossbar. Sadly for Sunderland, the rebound dropped invitingly for Mata to make it 3-0 and wrap up the victory with 41 minutes still to play.

Chelsea eased into cruise control with the points in the bag, although Johnson gave Sunderland hope with a rasping 66th-minute strike which keeper Cech appeared to leave, only to see it scream inside the far post.

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