Torres finding his form

Frank Lampard will go down in the history books as the Blues’

matchwinner for the umpteenth time in his Stamford Bridge career

but even he admitted his goal agsinst Sunderland owed everything to

Torres.

The striker showed the kind of confidence that has been sorely

lacking since his £50million move from Liverpool, unleashing a

sensational scissor kick that smashed against the underside of the

crossbar, careered off the knee of Lampard and into the net.

It was yet another assist – albeit an unwitting one – for

Torres, who has now gone almost four months since scoring but who

looked closer than ever to doing so in what was arguably his best

Chelsea performance at Stamford Bridge.

He seemed to know what was coming beforehand, saying: “I’m

hoping now I can find my best form again.

“It’s been a different style here for me to adapt to and I’ve

been giving assists for my team-mates, which has helped us towards

winning games.

“But obviously, as a striker, I’m always trying to score and I

always want to score.

“That’s what I want to do for Chelsea and, hopefully, I’ll start

doing it this year.”

Indeed, Torres appears to have drawn a line under his nightmare

2011 as he begins 2012 knowing Didier Drogba’s absence at the

African Nations Cup would give him the run in the side he

needs.

“It seems like a lot longer than one year since I arrived here,”

he added.

“It’s been a very hard year, with lots of change at the club and

in both my personal and professional life, but I have felt welcome

here from the beginning and I feel even more settled now.

“The reception from everyone at the club, including the fans,

has been unbelievable.”

That also seemed to pre-empt what was to come, with the backing

of the Stamford Bridge crowd – which has always stood by Torres –

reaching new heights yesterday.

“Torres, Torres, Torres,” they chanted every time he beat a man

or fired a shot goalward, while they were incensed when he saw two

penalty appeals rejected, the second seeing him booked for diving

when a foul appeared to have been committed.

Chelsea supporters were similarly effusive about the surprise

return of midfielder Michael Essien, who came off the bench to make

his first appearance of the season following knee surgery.

All that in front of the watching Gary Cahill, whose

£7million move from Bolton was due to be wrapped up today, and

who will fancy his chances of improving a defence that once again

looked far from secure.

“You always want your team to be more in control,” admitted

manager Andre Villas-Boas after watching Sunderland squander

several chances – including an open goal – to snatch an equaliser

and see a strong penalty shout of their own rejected.

The open goal chance fell to 22-year-old James McClean, who

responded to being given his big break by new manager Martin

O’Neill with two goals in his previous two appearances.

“He’s still learning the game and sometimes he just wants to do

things a wee bit too quickly,” O’Neill said of his fellow Northern

Irishman, who joined in the summer from Derry City.

“I thought he was excellent for us in the second half.”

O’Neill refused to be too downbeat about what was a rare setback

since he joined the club a month ago, although he was concerned

about the ankle injury that saw defender Matthew Kilgallon carried

off on a stretcher before half-time and which was due to be

assessed today.