Chelsea are already out of the Champions League, and Arsenal quickly followed them with yesterday’s aggregate loss on away goals to Monaco. Manchester City look destined to become the third and final Premier League side to be eliminated from the knockout stages, but one Premier League exile booked his side’s place in the quarter-finals in an extraordinary penalty shootout.
Enter Fernando Torres, the £50m striker whose dramatic fall from grace in England ended in a less than ceremonious farewell from Stamford Bridge as he headed back to Spain via AC Milan. Torres was sent out on a two-year loan to the Italian side in August 2014, although the deal was made permanent in January this year which paved the way for another loan move to his former club Atletico Madrid.
Perhaps his crowning moment on his return to the club where he is loved as a favourite son was his two goals in the Copa del Rey victory over Real Madrid, but last night ‘El Nino’ held his nerve when those around him were losing theirs, and slotted the match winning penalty to send Atletico through to the last-eight of the Champions League at the expense of Bayer Leverkusen.
Stepping up as Atletico's fifth penalty taker, Torres calmly slotted the ball just inside the right-post, leaving Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno absolutely no chance of getting a hand to it.
Watch the video of the penalty below...
Torres wasn’t able to take all the plaudits though, as Koke’s miss before him meant it would be up to Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling to score to keep the German side in the tie. But young goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who had emerged as a first-half substitute for the injured Miguel Angel Moya, had already saved from Hakan Calhanoglu and forced Omer Toprak to miss the target to put the pressure on Kiessling, and the German crumbled as he blazed his effort over the crossbar to give Atletico their passage through to the next round.
Speaking after the game, Torres said: "I wanted Koke to score so mine would be the final kick taken. I took it with my mind made up, the keeper could not get near it. I knew clearly that I was going to hit it just inside the post, and it went well.
"The keeper [Oblak] deserves it, it is not easy when you are not playing, especially in that position," Torres added. "But he played a great game, and has been decisive. That will help him to grow with us. We have a keeper for many years."
Torres’ moment of glory came just hours after he compared his frustrations at Chelsea to “swimming with wet clothes on”. There’s no doubt, having been frozen out at Stamford Bridge and deemed surplus to requirements, that he will take a lot of joy in progressing in the Champions League, although the Blues’ early exit is unlikely to have had an effect on him
“The worst part of not playing is when you think you're prepared and ready to do it,” Torres told El Pais. “I tried to get minutes at Chelsea and seize opportunities, but things do not always go the best way, and can drag on for weeks or even years.
“It was like swimming with wet clothes on. Now I know how I am, and I'm fine. At the end those doubts about your quality eventually disappear.”Reuse content