Torres finds finishing touch as Ancelotti entertains title talk

Chelsea 3 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online

Maybe the sudden downpour rekindled a painful memory, or the end of Fernando Torres' goal drought reinforced the view that momentum is swinging Chelsea's way. Whatever the cause, Carlo Ancelotti evoked one of his worst management experiences as he argued Chelsea's title pursuit is not over, despite Manchester United's six-point lead.

"I lost a title after being nine points clear with eight games to go. It can happen," he said, recalling the year 2000 when Sven Goran Eriksson's Lazio reeled in his Juventus team to win the Serie A title. The denouement was marked by controversy as a torrential storm delayed the second half of Juve's final match. Lazio, who had still been five points behind with four to play, had won their game by the time Juventus resumed and the pressure was too great for Ancelotti's side, who conceded and lost.

United, to judge from their defeat of Everton, show few signs of a similar collapse, but they are yet to play Chelsea and Arsenal, and still have the Champions League on their platter. What price Torres, now he is scoring again, resuming his previous tormenting of United's centre-halves when the teams meet at Old Trafford on 8 May?

Certainly no one at Stamford Bridge was dismissing the importance of the Spaniard's first goal in a Chelsea shirt, and his first in more than 12 hours' football. The roar from the crowd is unlikely to be surpassed anywhere this season and the scorer was buried by all his team-mates bar Petr Cech, who was celebrating 100 yards away.

"I never seen this kind of reaction for a goal," said Ancelotti. "The fans really needed a goal by Fernando. Everyone is happy for him and it will be easy to play the next game. After the goal he did two or three things that were a little bit lucky; before the goal he was very unlucky. I think that at that moment he has grown."

"Finally I have scored so there is less pressure on me," said the man himself. "I hope this one will be the first of many. It's been a long time waiting. Now we will see if we can finish the season as strongly as possible. We know it's going to be hard, but we have belief. "

None more so, to judge from the lifting of his shoulders, than Torres. "It was always going to be a matter of time before Fernando scored, but it was important for him to do so because everyone was looking at him," said Frank Lampard. "I think now you're going to see him fly."

The likelihood of this is increased by a sense that Torres is even more reliant on his self-confidence than most players. In his newspaper column yesterday David James revealed that prior to his Liverpool debut at Nottingham Forest, which was also Sky's first live Premier League match, his new team-mates warned him not to have a bad game as "you'll spend the rest of the week watching re-runs of your mistakes".

That is typical dressing room humour, but Torres has not faced it. "We've not really ribbed him because he quite a quiet lad," said Lampard. "Normally there's bit of banter flying about, but I think all the boys understood the pressure he was under. It wasn't easy for him and the boys were respectful of that. We all wanted him to do well so we didn't want to heap more pressure on him by giving him stick."

Lampard, usually a prolific scorer from midfield, added that he had endured barren periods and "nobody's made of stone – it affects you". He added: "You start to think about chances and going for goal, rather than doing what's instinctive."

Torres' neat finish, swivelling to shoot after the ball stuck in a puddle, was instinctive and more goals should now follow. Nevertheless, Ancelotti may well continue starting with Didier Drogba, whose superb pass to Ashley Cole set up Lampard for the opening goal and was generally outstanding.

Drogba aside, West Ham had most of the best performances with Jonathan Spector and Mark Noble covering for the loss of Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge shrugging off the abuse he received for not shaking John Terry's hand, and Demba Ba again showing what promise he has. While the game was still in the balance, Freddie Sears (a bright display in a demanding wide-right role) and Manuel Da Costa were denied by goal-line clearances and Robbie Keane missed a sitter. Chelsea also had chances before Torres broke the dam and, as Hammers' hearts slumped, Florent Malouda added a cruel third. "If we continue to play like that again we'll get the points we need," said West Ham's Danny Gabbidon, "if we take our chances."

That, as Torres could tell him, is easier said than done.

Scorers: Chelsea Lampard 44, Torres 84, Malouda 90

Substitutes: Chelsea Benayoun 6 (Essien, 56), Anelka 6 (Malouda, 70), Torres (Drogba, 77).

West Ham Keane 6 (Noble, 59), Piquionne (C Cole, 79), Obinna (Sears, 82).

Booked: Chelsea Ivanovic. West Ham United Hitzlsperger, Ba.

Man of the match Drogba Match rating 8/10.

Possession: Chelsea 51% West Ham 49%.

Attempts on target: Chelsea 12 West Ham 7.

Referee P Dowd (Staffs) Att 41,056.

El Nino ends drought

732 Minutes played for Chelsea by Fernando Torres before opening his account. His goal on Saturday was his first for the club in 14 games since joining from Liverpool for £50m in January

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