Just when Fernando Torres thought it could not get much worse, the Spain striker's career at Chelsea hit a new low yesterday. He was sent off for a horrendous tackle on Mark Gower that, had it fully connected, could have led to a serious injury to the Swansea City midfielder.
Torres had just scored only his third goal for Chelsea and a beauty it was, too. But no doubt fuelled by adrenaline, still on a high as he dragged himself out of purgatory, he launched himself into the most reckless of two-footed studs-up challenges. Gower escaped by millimetres and was quickly on his feet.
Mike Dean, the referee, had no option – a point that Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, conceded. "It looked a good decision by the referee," he said. "It's part of the nature of the game [tackling] but he has decided that. No, Fernando has not apologised. He has nothing to apologise for. Yes, of course he will be disappointed."
In a rare display of rival-club unity over a red card, Brendan Rodgers, the Swansea manager and former Chelsea reserve-team manager, concurred with Villas-Boas. "I think it was more for the intent than the actual contact," he said. "That was minimal. But Fernando is not a malicious player. He probably just wants to show that, at the moment, he is fighting for everything."
Torres will receive a three-match ban, but Chelsea barely missed him yesterday, as they recovered smoothly from the loss of dignity felt in the 3-1 defeat away to Manchester United the previous weekend. "It was a good performance, especially with 10 men," Villas-Boas said. "We never lost the will to attackand it just shows the nature of my players and their commitment."
For the opening half an hour, Villas-Boas's avowed intention of "putting on the style" seemed a lame boast. Chelsea huffed and puffed but rarely penetrated Swansea's well-organised defence. Yet Torres, pre-moment of madness, was beginning to show that at last, perhaps, he was emerging from his personal hell and that miss at Old Trafford had clearly not played on his mind.
First, the Spaniard performed an almost balletic series of tight twists and turns only to be blocked out; then, after Raul Meireles had shot wastefully wide, Torres appeared to be tripped in the area by Garry Monk. No penalty ruled Dean. Then, the very best of Torres – the £50 million Torres that Roman Abramovic bought from Liverpool with such great expectations.
Ramires clipped a pass into the Swansea area and, for once, Monk and Ashley Williams, the centre-backs, had gone missing. Torres still had much to do but took the ball down on his chest, evaded the belated marking of Angel Rangel and swivelled sharply before planting a crisp shot past Michel Vorm. A third goal in 25 appearances for Chelsea, a second in successive matches. Maybe, just maybe, the apparent curse had been lifted.
And yet it descended upon him again just 10 minutes later – just three minutes after Ramires had rubberstamped Chelsea's growing authority with a peach of a goal, driven sweetly home from the edge of the area after Ashley Cole had ripped open the Swansea defence.
Torres made a token protest to Dean but had to go. The hush around the Bridge, from the home fans, said it all. Red mist, red card. It was the fourth dismissal of Torres' career, the previous three for Atletico Madrid.
Ramires, completing a rousing individual display, scampered through to increase Chelsea's lead and at least the Welsh side gained a measure of consolation when Williams nodded in Gower's free kick. Still, although they were breached again, when Florent Malouda set up Didier Drogba in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Rodgers remained upbeat. "OK, the best team won," he said. "The first goal rocked us but I'm still proud of my players yet again."
For Torres, the misery goes on.
Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Ramires, Meireles (McEachran, 83), Mata (Malouda, 59); Anelka (Drogba, 79), Torres.
Swansea (4-4-2): Vorm; Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor; Gower, Britton (Routledge, 46), Allen, Sinclair; Dyer (Dobbie, 71), Lita (Graham, 59).
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Ramires (Chelsea).Reuse content