Torres hits hat-trick in Chelsea rout, Spurs win
LONDON, April 30 — Fernando Torres, suddenly oozing confidence in front of goal, netted his first Chelsea hat-trick as the Champions League finalists capped a sensational week by routing Queens Park Rangers 6-1 in the Premier League yesterday.
Chelsea remain firmly in the hunt for a top-four finish along with Tottenham Hotspur, who took fourth spot on 62 points ahead of Newcastle (62) and their London rivals (61) by beating Blackburn Rovers 2-0 at White Hart Lane with goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Kyle Walker.
Torres, a forlorn figure at Stamford Bridge for much of the 15 months since his £50-million (RM247.4-million) move from Liverpool, produced three incisive finishes to add to his late goal at Barcelona on Tuesday that eased Chelsea into a Champions League final with Bayern Munich.
The Spaniard struck twice in the first half after the home side had led through Daniel Sturridge’s goal after just 46 seconds and John Terry’s header.
Torres completed his hat-trick on 64 minutes by side-footing past Paddy Kenny from Juan Mata’s pass, a goal that had beaming owner Roman Abramovich high-fiving the fans around him.
“It’s been a very hard week for us, but very important with the win (on aggregate) against Barcelona and this important result,” Torres, who had just three Premier League goals and eight in all competitions this season before lining up against QPR, told Sky Sports.
“We must keep on getting points. I’m very happy with the hat-trick, hopefully the first of many.”
Leaders Manchester United (83 points) and second-placed Manchester City (80), who face each other today, are guaranteed Champions League places next season while third-placed Arsenal (66) are in pole position to secure the last automatic slot.
But it is no longer certain the fourth-placed team will get into the Champions League qualifiers. If Chelsea beat Bayern in the final next month and finish outside the top four, they would take the last qualifying spot.
While Chelsea’s 2-2 draw at Barcelona — which secured a 3-2 semi-final win on aggregate — was based on defensive resilience and counter-attacking nous, they showed their attacking flair right from the whistle in yesterday’s demolition of more humble opponents.
Sturridge began the goal glut when he beat Kenny with a vicious shot from outside the box and the hosts doubled their lead on 13 minutes when Terry, sent off at Barcelona and banned for the final against Bayern, headed in Mata’s corner.
Torres got his first six minutes later when he ran on to Salomon Kalou’s angled pass to round Kenny and net. Then after 25 minutes he gleefully pounced after a mix-up between Kenny and defender Nedum Onouha.
After Torres crisply put away his third, substitute Florent Malouda added a sixth before Djibril Cisse netted for the relegation-threatened visitors.
Interim coach Roberto Di Matteo said Chelsea, who also have an FA Cup final appearance against Liverpool to look forward to, were brimming with confidence and belief.
“After a Champions League game midweek it always proves difficult in the next game in the Premier League. And I am very pleased with the way we played and the result,” he said.
“I have to say the team surprised me as well and I wasn’t expecting, I was hoping that we would really put a great performance in today.”
There were no pre-match handshakes between the West London rivals on Premier League orders because of tensions between Terry and Anton Ferdinand.
Terry, who denies wrongdoing, has been charged with racially abusing QPR defender Ferdinand in a league game in October. There was no handshake before the FA Cup fourth-round match in January between the two clubs.
Terry is due in court in July after the Euro 2012 tournament.
QPR remain one place above the drop zone on 34 points. Below them are Bolton Wanderers, also on 34 but with an inferior goal difference, Blackburn (31) and relegated Wolves.
Spurs had little trouble brushing aside Blackburn who did not produce a single shot, on or off target, in the entire match.
Van der Vaart netted the opener midway through the first half after Gareth Bale had headed against the crossbar and Walker sealed the points 15 minutes from time with a superbly-struck curling free kick.
“You think it’s one of those days but eventually we got the goal and we played ever so well today,” said Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. — Reuters
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