Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Torres is hit and miss, Roo slips up and Reds are so lucky

By Steven Beacom

The goal was gaping. It was a simple task to put the ball in the net, set up a rip-roaring finish to a stunning encounter, pile the pressure on Manchester United and maybe, just maybe, ruin their perfect start to the season.

What did Fernando Torres do? Slice it wide with his left foot when your granny would have scored.

And with that extraordinary miss Chelsea's opportunity to take something from a breathtaking game of football ended.

Under huge pressure for failing time after time in a blue shirt, since his much hyped £50 million move from Liverpool last January, the Spanish striker was actually having his best game for the London club yesterday.

He looked sharp and hungry, just as he did when scoring all those brilliant goals for the Merseysiders, some against United, in his first few seasons in English football.

Torres had even produced a sublime piece of skill to net in the 46th minute — his second goal in 24 games for the Stamford Bridge outfit — when Chelsea were trailing to first half efforts from Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney.

Wreaking havoc in United's defence and making the excellent Phil Jones look ordinary on occasion, every time Torres had the ball after the break, he was dangerous, forcing a decent save from David De Gea, before blasting the rebound over.

Then with 83 minutes gone, and his team running out of time, he ran clear rounding De Gea only to mess up a golden opportunity when it seemed impossible to do so. The Stretford End loved it.

That was that for Chelsea, suffering their first defeat under Andre Villas-Boas. After giving United the sternest of tests, they had nothing left and departed Old Trafford with exactly that.

Poor Nando (obviously not in a financial sense). Even when he is having a good day, it turns out to be a bad one.

There were inevitable comparisons with Ronnie Rosenthal's infamous miss when playing for Liverpool at Villa Park several years ago, but unlike Torres at least the Israeli managed to hit the bar!

As Torres and Chelsea wondered what might have been, there was mighty relief amongst the United fans and players, in particular Rooney, grateful to make it five wins out of five in the Premier League and move two points clear of Manchester City, who managed to let a two goal lead slip at Fulham.

Rooney may have scored United's third goal on 45 minutes, sliding in from close range after John Terry failed to clear, but it's his pitiful penalty that people will remember from the game.

It was a laughable effort with the England ace slipping as he connected with the ball, which ended closer to the corner flag than the net.

Perhaps justice was done though because Jose Boswinga was rather harshly adjudged to have brought down Nani after the exceptional Portuguese winger had smashed a shot against the bar.

On a thrilling afternoon when the misses were more memorable than the hits, Rooney, chasing his third league hat-trick in a row, also fluffed his lines from close range with a strike against the post.

Rooney and Torres weren't the only culprits. Early on the Spaniard set up Ramires but from six yards out he lacked power and direction allowing De Gea to make an unlikely save. Late on there was a case of de ja vu with United substitute Dimitar Berbatov doing a Ramires, giving Ashley Cole the chance to clear after Rooney had created the opening.

Before that Cole was lucky not to see red for a shocking lunge on Javier Hernandez inside the area. The Chelsea defender was booked, yet referee Phil Dowd didn't award a penalty. Work that one out. Maybe, he didn't want to see Rooney make a fool of himself from the spot again.

The game, played with incredible intensity, had the lot as Chelsea, with an attacking line-up and admirable approach, went toe-to-toe with a United side, lucky to lead 3-0 at the break, because their first two goals should have been disallowed.

Chelsea's marking was non-existant but Smalling ought to have been flagged offside before heading home Ashley Young's well flighted free-kick on eight minutes.

Nani was also offside when he collected a Glenn Hoddle type pass from Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans 37 minutes in. Nani took advantage of the linesman's error and cut inside to unleash a rasping 25 yard drive that rocketed into the net. It was a goal fitting of his electric performance. With Rooney adding to the tally, Chelsea looked finished by the break. But they refused to surrender until Torres waved the white flag with THAT astonishing miss.

Belfast Telegraph


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