On Saturday, on William Shakespeare’s birthday, there was drama galore at Stamford Bridge, including a tempest worthy of the Bard. The first act of Chelsea’s match against West Ham though, was the reprisal of the John Terry-Wayne Bridge feud, which saw the two former team-mates ignore each other at the start of the game and refuse to shake hands. It proved to be only a minor comic aside.
A remarkable sun-kissed Easter in London gave way to a snap thunderstorm here, which transformed this fixture into a wild and unpredictable frenzy. By halftime the floodlights were faltering, the pitch had become one giant puddle and players were kicking up standing water with each sprint, tackle and shot.
This was no tragedy though (except for West Ham, who probably deserved better than a 3-0 hammering) – rather a joyous celebration for Chelsea and one man in particular, Fernando Torres, who finally, finally, brought to an end the worst run of his entire career.
The explosion was thunderous
It almost didn’t happen though. Brought on for Didier Drogba as a substitute in the 77th Minute, Torres had to contend with swamp-like conditions in the West Ham penalty area which stalled a pass into him, and almost robbed him of a shot entirely. But displaying the kind of poise all too lacking from his game of late, he brought the ball brilliantly under control, swivelled in the quagmire and slid a shot expertly past Rob Green. The explosion of relief in the stands and on the pitch for the Spanish striker who hadn’t scored for three months (or 901 minutes, 732 of those for Chelsea) was as thunderous as the weather.
Torres slid to the corner flag breaking into a broad smile, as his ten out-field team-mates bundled onto him like new best friends. The home fans meanwhile showed genuine affection in their celebrations, raising the roof for the striker who has suffered intense scrutiny since his £50 million January from Liverpool. »There was a lot of happiness«, said Salomon Kalou. This was Torres’ long-awaited catharthis. His frustration was released. And he rose from the turf, the hero of the piece.
The suspicion lingers that Torres’ revival might not become fully apparent until after a much needed summer holiday. It should not be forgotten that having been operated on twice last year, he has also played three summers in a row for Spain and desperately needs a break to recover both physical and mental sharpness. Encouragingly, it seems he will return from some far-flung beach to a dressing room of comrades who are either decent enough to care about him – or at last pragmatic enough to realise he represents Chelsea’s future. Frank Lampard led the praise after the match: »[After the game] he was quietly content«, said the midfielder who opened the scoring against West Ham. »He’s not a shout-it-from-the-rooftops sort of fella and I like that in him.« In a dressing room packed with big and brash characters, Torres’ humility might prove a real breath of fresh air.
In the short term meanwhile, Torres’ strike and the three points it helped Chelsea collect, wrapped up an excellent week for the club. They grabbed not only nine points and nine goals in seven days but more importantly overtook Arsenal in second place in the table. However improbable, that means they have re-ignited a title defence that seemed fatally stalled.
Carlo Ancelotti's future at Stamford Bridge remains unsure
Chelsea now lie six points behind leaders Manchester United, with four games left to play. United must receive Chelsea at home, and make a trip to the Emirates, all whilst juggling the Champions League semi-final with Schalke 04. Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s side look in no mood to cave in and allow a 19th league title to slip from their grasp – but if they do, Chelsea have manoeuvred to pick up the pieces.
No wonder then that Carlo Ancelotti, whose future at Stamford Bridge remains unsure, could afford himself a smile from beneath the towel he sheltered under on the touchline. This has by no means been a smooth or brilliant season from his team, but who would dare call the Italian a wally? He has weathered stormy times at Chelsea and heads into spring with the wind in his sails. His line-up, now sensibly returned to a 4-3-3 with Drogba top dog, is clicking once again. He seems also to have motivated his Ivorian star with a (brief) spell playing second fiddle to Torres. Lampard meanwhile has played himself into form after an injury-blighted campaign, and Florent Malouda seems to have recovered some of the marauding instincts, which served him so well in 2010. A late push for the title would do everyone at the club good after a season that has revealed the need for rebuilding – it must not though blind the bosses at Chelsea to the extent of renewal required. Torres stepped into the spotlight here. A new supporting cast must follow in the summer.
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 36: Parking tickets
Parkstrafen. Oder für Premier League Stars, sollen vielleicht diese Worte einfach als »Konfetti« übersetzen. Sie kriegen sie ohne Ende – und machen sie gar keine Sorge darüber. In 2008 zum Beispiel, hat John Terry zwei Stunde in einem Behindertenparkplatz sein Bentley geparkt, als er ein Pizza gegessen hat. Letztes Jahr ist es entdeckt worden, dass El Hadji Diouf sieben Jahre in England gefahren ist, ohne gültigen Führerschein. Und jetzt, hat Mario Balotelli (wieder) ein neues Niveau von Dummheit erreicht: seitdem er in Manchester wohnt, hat er schon Parkstrafen im Wert von £10,000 bekommt. Sein Maserati ist auch schon 27 Mal beschlagnahmt worden. Und, als die Polizei haben ihm zuletzt gefragt wieso er mit £25,000 Bargeld auf seinem Beifahrersitz fahrt, hat er einfach gesagt: »Weil ich kann.« Allerdings Konfetti...