Mata: Torres turned down chance to take penalty

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The Independent Online

Juan Mata yesterday revealed that Fernando Torres had turned down a chance to end his long search for a Chelsea goal against Birmingham City on Tuesday because he wasn't "first on the list" to take penalties.

Mata missed the spot-kick in the 2-0 FA Cup victory after offering it to Torres, the £50m striker who has not scored since October. "I asked him if he wanted to take it because he won the penalty," Mata said. "Torres said, 'I'm not first on the list to take it.'" Asked if he was surprised, Mata said: "I don't know. Robbie [Di Matteo] put up a piece of paper with who shoots penalties and that's what we did."

Mata said he had been "sad" to see Andre Villas-Boas leave after the Portuguese manager was sacked last Sunday. He said: "We were sad because it's always a difficult moment when a club changes its manager. Andre was a very good manager and a very good person as well. We are very grateful to him."

One of Villas-Boas's first moves was to buy Mata for £23.5m. "I played a lot of minutes, a lot of games and of course he was important for me," Mata said. "It's obvious I came here for the club but for him as well. He gave me a lot of confidence and I am very grateful."

Roman Abramovich spoke to the players after sacking Villas-Boas and the selection of Torres, who has not scored in 23 games, was in line with the owner's wishes. Di Matteo's selection also, surprisingly, left out almost all of the senior players who are thought to have been at odds with Villas-Boas, including Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda.

Mata said: "There is a lot of unity here. No matter who the manager is we are all focused on the same objective. We must do the best for the club."

Chelsea are three points off fourth place in the Premier League but Mata said: "We will try to win the FA Cup, it is a special competition."