Chelsea reach Club World Cup final after beating Monterrey
European champions play South American champions Corinthians on Sunday
Judging by this sparkling performance, Rafa Benitez’s rising sons have the world at their feet and they can go into Sunday’s Yokohama final against Corinthians with every chance of adding to the Champions League and FA Cup they won in May.
It may be another chaotic season at Stamford Bridge, but here it was Monterrey in disarray. The CONCACAF champions were run ragged in every department as Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and an own-goal by Darvin Chavez, one of Mexico’s Olympic champions at Wembley last summer, sealed an emphatic Chelsea success.
A late consolation by striker Aldo De Nigris gave the scoreline a respectability Monterrey scarcely deserved.
Interim Chelsea manager Benitez received further abuse from the thousand or so Chelsea fans who had made the 6,000-mile trip from London, a distance that entitles them to voice their opinions, but they may change their tune if the Spaniard continues to shape their fortunes in this vein.
“We played with a high tempo, scored great goals and showed some good movement, so it was a great performance,” said Benitez, who can now look forward to his third Club World Cup final after guiding Liverpool to the showpiece in 2005 and Internazionale two years ago.
Japan’s second favourite English side were well supported here by the locals, as they have been since their arrival last weekend. The streets around this vast concrete bowl were littered with traders, many from London, selling blue scarves and shirts.
Inside there were echoes of west London too – plenty of echoes in a stadium barely a third full - with a rendition of “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” from a section of the ground temporarily transformed into the Shed.
Bentitez was jeered as soon as his face appeared on the big screen, to help him feel at home.
But his team played with a panache that even his most ardent critic must have admired, notwithstanding the fact Monterrey were such a disappointment.
The manager tinkered with the side that had beaten Sunderland last Saturday, this time with Oscar slotting into an attacking triumvirate behind Torres that also featured Mata and the irresistible Eden Hazard.
It was a combination that bewitched the Mexicans, who were also unsure what to do with David Luiz, at his fluid best alongside John Obi Mikel in an unfamiliar midfield role. Benitez hinted afterwards that he may be deployed there again. “It’s an option for the future, but it was mainly for this game,” he said. “We knew they were good between the lines and had an option with their player coming inside from the left. We needed some energy in there, and David Luiz is a good passer with good energy, so he did well.”
Torres, buoyed by four goals in his previous two games under the tutelage of his old Liverpool manager, sent an early header over the bar and soon Luiz went close after nice work by Oscar.
The deep lying Severo Meza’s slip let in Oscar to win a corner and then Branislav Ivanovic was allowed to power in a header from Mata’s corner that narrowly missed the target.
As the blue tide continued to overwhelm Monterrey, Corinthians` players, fresh from their success in Nagoya, filed past us into their seats, where they huddled under blankets on a chilly evening. What they were seeing was a side capable of stopping them from adding to the Club World Cup they won on home soil in 2000.
And when the first goal arrived after 17 minutes – it was a wonder it took so long – it was fashioned by a Brazilian. Oscar and Ashley Cole exchanged passes, the England man running on to an exquisite backheel that will have earned nods of approval from his countrymen. Cole capitalised by crossing for Mata, who was able to take a touch before slotting past Jonathan Orozco with his left foot.
Mata, as if to underline the new-found spirit Benitez has talked about recently, held up six fingers in celebration – that being the number worn by Oriol Romeu, who was ruled out for the rest of the season following the knee injury he suffered at the Stadium of Light.
Monterrey, competing here for the second year in succession, did change things around – as predicted by Benitez, a fan of the wily Victor Vucetich in the opposite dug-out. Jesus Corona switched over to the left side and was quick to torment Cesar Azpilicueta before crossing for Nigris to head over.
The striker’s prowess in the air was expected to be one of their chief weapons but he rarely troubled Gary Cahill or Ivanovic at the back and they went into the break having failed to register a single shot on target.
If that wasn’t demoralising enough, the game was put to bed within three minutes of the restart with a brace of goals that came gift-wrapped by the Mexicans.
Torres, fed by the brilliant Hazard, fired home with the aid of a heavy deflection for his 12th goal of the campaign - which is more than he managed in the whole of last season. It was also the first time he has scored in three successive games since his 50m pound move from Liverpool two years ago.
Monterrey had hardly had time to draw breath before Torres raced in from the left full of purpose, fed his Spanish compatriot Mata on the opposite side and his mis-hit shot was played beyond the keeper by Chavez.
Vucetich had predicted Chelsea would be a handful and how right he was. What he had hoped for, though, was that his team would meet the challenge. Alas, they may have been easy on the eye going forward but were calamitous at the back.
Petr Cech wasn’t tested in Chelsea`s goal until he was forced into a smart save from a De Nigris shot midway through the second half.
He is sure to be busier on Sunday, but then his opposite number is unlikely to sleep easy after this.
Orozcol; Perez (Osorio 58), Mier, Basanta, Chavez; Meza (Solis 80); Corona, Delgado (Carreno 82), Ayovi, Cardoza; De Nigris.
Subs not used: Lopez, Morales, Moreno, Madrigal, Dautt, Garcia, Ibarra.
Goal: De Nigris, 90.
Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole;
Mikel, Luiz (Lampard 62); Mata (Ferreira 74), Oscar, Hazard; Torres (Moses 79). Subs not used: Ramires, Marin, Turnbull, Bertrand, Piazon, Hilario, Saville.
Goals: Mata 17, Torres 46, Chavez og 48.
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