Torres scores as Blues triumph

The £50million man had not found the net for 901 minutes for

club and country, 732 for the champions since joining them almost

three months ago, but it took him just eight minutes to do so after

coming off the bench today. The jubilant Spaniard was mobbed by his

team-mates after scoring in a victory that moved Chelsea back to

within six points of Manchester United, with Frank Lampard and

Florent Malouda also among the goals. The margin of defeat was

harsh on West Ham, who wasted several chances of their own as they

ended the day back on the bottom of the table, two points from

safety. Amid all the talk of Chelsea’s resurgence and West Ham’s

survival battle, the latest reunion between John Terry and Wayne

Bridge had slipped under the radar. Relations between the pair had

not thawed in the year after allegations emerged about their

private lives and Bridge duly snubbed Terry during the pre-match

handshake, as he did last season. The non-pleasantries were

accompanied by a huge drop in temperature as the heavens opened

after one of the hottest days of the year. In what were admittedly

treacherous conditions, Chelsea flattered to deceive in the first

half, dominating the opening 20 minutes without finding the net.

Malouda looked certain to do so inside three minutes – just as he

had done against Birmingham on Wednesday – but he shot straight at

the onrushing Robert Green. Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Malouda

all went close but West Ham’s blanket defence stood firm. Their

attacking threat had been virtually nil but that changed in the

24th minute when Petr Cech was forced into fingertip saves twice in

a minute from Demba Ba’s 30-yarder and Jonathan Spector’s

close-range header. Drogba blazed over as the rain relented, only

to be replaced by the sound of thunder, before the lively Freddie

Sears was desperately unlucky not to Put West Ham ahead on the

half-hour, his outrageous volleyed backheel from a corner cleared

off the line by Cole. Chelsea were becoming increasingly sloppy,

with a suicidal Salomon Kalou pass going unpunished and a lack of

communication seeing Cech take out team-mate David Luiz. But with

just a minute of the half remaining, Chelsea produced their best

move of the match to take the lead, Drogba threading in Cole, whose

low cross was smashed home by Lampard. The rain returned and there

also appeared to be a floodlight failure before the interval. That

was rectified during half-time, after which Kalou fired wide from

12 yards before John Obi Mikel blocked Da Costa’s header from a

corner. Both sides lost men to injury moments later, Michael Essien

hobbling off and Mark Noble carried off on a stretcher in

worryingly innocuous fashion. Drogba’s free-kick just evaded Terry

but his cross moments later should have been converted by Lampard,

who scuffed straight at Green. The pitch was in danger of becoming

unplayable but David Luiz smashed a long-ranger against the

crossbar moments before Ba’s blockbuster was fumbled by Cech and

Hammers substitute Robbie Keane shot straight at the keeper. With

20 minutes remaining, Kalou was withdrawn for Anelka, with Torres

made to wait by Ancelotti. Keane really should have levelled 16

minutes from time when Spector’s through ball left him with just

Cech to beat but he blazed wide. Ba became the latest player to

clear off his own line before Torres replaced Drogba for the final

14 minutes, squaring for for Anelka to score what should have been

the clincher, Danny Gabbidon heading off the line. Then, the moment

every Chelsea fan had been waiting for arrived. Anelka’s through

ball played in Torres and the ball cruelly appeared to hold up in a

puddle. But that proved a blessing in disguise as the Spaniard

swivelled and curled home left-footed. Stamford Bridge erupted and

every outfield Chelsea player piled on top of a jubilant Torres

next to the corner flag. The striker even played a part in

Chelsea’s stoppage-time third, which Malouda lashed into the roof

of the net, a strike that could prove vital if goal difference

comes into play in the title race.