Stop the press, hold the back page; Fernando Torres has scored not once but, wait for it, twice for Chelsea. Let’s ignore the fact that it was the same number as he had managed in his previous 22 appearances or that he managed it against a rather disappointing Rubin Kazan surely now Fernando is back. Well in all honesty he probably won’t be and his performance in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory, albeit impressive, was nothing more than showing prospective summer buyers that he still has some talent left in his legs.
It was in fact a largely encouraging performance for the Chelsea forward with some impressive movement, solid link up play and the willingness to showboat at will. For Chelsea it was really just about getting the result as the build-up of fixtures starts to take its toll. The tinkerer made six changes from the weekend as he tries to juggle Chelsea’s hectic schedule. With perhaps one eye on Sunday’s clash with Sunderland there were rare starts for Yossi Benayoun and Fernando “I only score in cups” Torres. The former was largely impressive and started the match extremely brightly, defying the fact that he has barely played at all this season. Rubin started the match extremely quietly and it was hard to imagine this was the same side that had gone to Atletico Madrid and triumphed 2-0.
The opening fifteen minutes suggested it might become slightly old school with John Terry and David Luiz more than happy to hoof long balls up to Fernando Torres. In all fairness to the Spaniard he coped with these admirably all evening and his link up play for the majority of the night was top notch. It was actually odd to see Terry such has been his irregularity in the side this season. He has barely featured in any key matches since his injury but the captain looked solid and composed at the heart of Chelsea’s defence allowing David Luiz to play his normal game of running forward erratically. It seemed inevitable such was the scrappy nature of this opening period that the breakthrough would come via a long ball of sorts and it proved to be the case on the 16th minute. A lofted through ball from David Luiz found Torres and although he seemed to try his hardest to miss, getting tangled up in his own and Sharonov’s legs, he managed to poke out a right boot and the ball trickled over the line. The goal was down to firstly Luiz’s excellent long ball and secondly Torres’ as usual fairly good movement losing his man and drifting between the two centre halves.
The match progressed largely in the same vein with Chelsea in control and Rubin only really threatening with the occasional long shot ,most of these being taken by left back Christian Ansaldi and midfielder Bibras Natcho. When Chelsea weren’t trying long balls they were utilising the once again excellent Juan Mata. The diminutive playmaker was, as per usual, at the heart of everything good that Chelsea managed and his immunity to Rafa’s rotation is perfectly understandable. He was ably supported by the work rate of Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta down the right hand side, both linking up superbly with each other and Mata and putting in plenty of crosses. When the second goal came, it was almost written that Moses and Mata would have a hand in it but perhaps not that Sergei Ryzhikov's hand would have an even bigger part. A cross from the right from Mata was headed goal-wards by Moses and Ryzhikov seemed to take off before the Nigerian had even headed it leaving himself horrendously out of position. As such he could only tamely palm the ball away and when it was put back in the box Moses was free to lash home a superb finish.
Things were going well for Chelsea and Rafa Benitez and even the usual choruses of Jose Mourinho’s name couldn’t dampen his mood. But Gianluca Rocchi could. The Italian referee inexplicably awarded Rubin a penalty late on in the first half when Ansaldi’s shot cannoned off Terry’s arm despite the captain having about two seconds to move it out the way. Nevertheless the penalty stood alongside a booking for Terry and Natcho calmly sent Cech the wrong way and all of a sudden Rubin were back in it. What had looked like an extremely comfortable situation for Chelsea had quickly become rather awkward.
Amongst all this Lampard and Ramires had quietly gone about their business not really providing much going forward, but being extremely disciplined and frustrating Rubin’s main threat Roman Eremenko. A task they continued to excel at in the second half. After the break we saw an improved tempo from Chelsea who had seemed a bit knocked back by the Rubin goal and Torres continued to impress with his work rate and willingness to chase lost causes. Mata again shone amongst the fairly subdued atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, while Cech continued to look surprisingly shaky considering his heroics on Monday and a corner punched into the back of a Rubin player was just one of his questionable decisions. Just past the hour mark and Chelsea were still only really creating through Mata so to relieve the pressure on his Spaniard Rafa introduced Eden Hazard into the mix obviously hoping he could provide the much needed third goal.
Despite the Belgian’s introduction, Terry had clearly decided he was going to provide the necessary spark, charging forward with a flick and a spin ultimately to no avail. In a quick fire minute or so Bertrand lost the ball before another shot ricocheted off John Terry’s arm, thankfully the ref had his eyes screwed in for this one, before Benayoun lobbed a Rubin defender with an outrageous piece of skill. His pass found Torres who linked up well with Mata before the latter sent over a beautiful ball from the left for Torres to head home his second of the evening. The match then fizzled out much as it had started with Rubin seemingly happy to take the away goal back to Russia and Chelsea unable to provide a larger cushion.
Chelsea were good, but that’s about it. They could have and should have scored more in all truthfulness and Rubin were woefully underpar. If Chelsea think they will have it this easy in Russia they will be in for a serious battering. Moscow is not an easy place to play football and the fact that the match comes before FA Cup weekend will seriously test Rafa’s rotation merry-go-round. The squad isn’t too small and the fact that Marko Marin looked horrifically rusty when he came on for a ten minute cameo shows how criminally underused he has been this season. Benitez talks about finishing third with the FA Cup and Europa League as his aims for this season. On this showing I wouldn’t be cracking out the champagne just yet.