Can revived Torres rescue Chelsea’s season for Benitez?

Published 3:35 PM EST, Sat December 8, 2012
Chelsea's Spanish forward Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring his second goal against Sunderland on Saturday.
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images

Story highlights

Fernando Torres scores twice for the second time this week in Chelsea victory

Spain striker has ended two-month drought which coincided with team's struggles

Chelsea's 3-1 win at Sunderland is first in EPL under new boss Rafael Benitez

Swansea fan arrested for alleged racist gesture during 4-3 defeat by Norwich

(CNN) —  

Written off by all and sundry as the most expensive flop in English Premier League history, Fernando Torres is seemingly back in business.

Four goals in two games have transformed the misfiring striker from the on-pitch personification of Chelsea’s recent problems to perhaps the man who can earn Rafael Benitez a bit more time in the club’s managerial hotseat.

“I said before that if the team play well and create chances he will score goals,” Benitez said after Torres netted twice in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Sunderland – Chelsea’s first victory in eight EPL games.

“It’s fair to say that we are watching a Torres with more confidence and belief. I was analyzing his movements and adjusting a few things. It’s a question of confidence and differences in movements. The most important thing is that he appears confident.”

The victory kept Chelsea third ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby – seven points behind leaders United and four adrift of second-placed City.

It capped a week which started with Chelsea’s embarrassing group-stage exit from the Champions League and which will end with the squad traveling to Japan for the Club World Cup.

Torres ended his two-month drought with two goals in Wednesday’s 6-1 thrashing of Danish team Nordsjaelland, but the next day he had an immediate reminder of his earlier struggles from the man he is seeking to follow as a Chelsea hero.

Didier Drogba, back training with the club to keep fit for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations, put on a lavish dinner for last season’s Champions League-winning team – spending a reported $1.3 million as he had special commemorative rings made for his former colleagues.

Torres did not attend the affair laid on by the player who kept him out of the Chelsea starting lineup following his $80 million move from Liverpool – Drogba, the fan favorite who finally delivered the European title that owner Roman Abramovich has always craved, with his last kick for the club before moving to China.

Whether it served as a catalyst for Saturday’s performance, only Torres knows, but the Spain international shrugged off the lethargy that followed his promising start to this season as he looked more like the man who starred for Benitez at Liverpool.

Torres opened the scoring in the 11th minute from Eden Hazard’s cross for his first in the EPL since October 6, and made it 2-0 at halftime with his first successful penalty in English football after Sebastian Larsson tripped Ramires.

Torres hit the crossbar soon after the break, but compatriot Juan Mata followed up to score, and Sunderland dropped into the relegation zone despite a consolation from Adam Johnson.

It was Benitez’s first league win in four games since replacing the sacked Roberto Di Matteo, a hugely unpopular appointment with the Chelsea fans.

“Little by little we are adjusting things, but if we have more confidence, with the quality we have we will win games,” said the Spanish coach, who will now seek to repeat his 2010 Club World Cup success with Inter Milan – after which he was promptly sacked having fallen out with players and officials at the Italian club.

“It’s important to have an opportunity to win any trophy, but especially this one,” Benitez said.

“It was a great experience for me and I hope it will be for my players. I got to the final in 2005 and won the tournament in 2010.”

Arsenal ended a four-match winless run by beating fifth-placed West Brom 2-0 thanks to two penalties from Mikel Arteta – the first coming after an apparent dive from fellow Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla.

“There was zero contact, it wasn’t even close. I am not sure what the referee saw,” West Brom manager Steve Clarke said.

“It was a bad decision for us and obviously changed the shape of the afternoon. We knew the longer the game went the more pressure would come on Arsenal.”

Arsene Wenger’s team had dropped to 10th after last weekend’s defeat by Swansea, but climbed back up to sixth as the London side bounced back from the midweek Champions League loss to Olympiakos.

Norwich’s 4-3 win at eighth-placed Swansea was marred by the arrest of one of the home team’s fans for an alleged racist gesture.

Norwich’s Cameroon defender Sebastien Bassong complained after being abused following a second-half goal from Robert Snodgrass that put Norwich 4-2 ahead.

“Within 10 minutes of the report the stewards had got hold of the TV footage, replayed it, identified the alleged person in question and within that period he was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offense,” said a Swansea spokesman.

“The matter is with the police, but from the club’s point of view we abhor racism and we have worked hard over the years to make this a family club. We will look into it and a further statement will follow in due course.”

Spanish striker Michu scored twice for Swansea to move top of the EPL scoring charts with 12, lifting him above Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. Torres now has six, and 11 in all competitions this season.

Southampton moved out of the bottom three for the first time this season, beating fellow promoted side Reading 1-0 to be equal on points with Aston Villa and Wigan.

Villa drew 0-0 with mid-table Stoke, while two goals from James McCarthy earned Wigan a 2-2 draw with bottom club Queens Park Rangers.

QPR set a new record of 16 EPL games without a win, beating Swindon’s unwanted mark from the 1993-94 season, as new manager Harry Redknapp had to settle for a third successive draw despite taking a second-half lead through striker Djibril Cisse following defender Ryan Nelsen’s first-half equalizer.