DROUGHT? What drought?
Fernando Torres is swinging in the rain but QPR are in danger of drowning after this Stamford Bridge deluge.
Chelsea’s much-maligned record signing opened the floodgates on this West London grudge match to claim his first hat-trick since September 2009.
And the £50million striker must feel like doing a rain dance every day after washing Rangers’ survival hopes down the plughole.
Don’t forget that Torres’ long-awaited first goal for Chelsea came when the ball stuck in a puddle against West Ham this time last year.
Now he is into double figures on a day when the heavens opened again. After five months without a goal Torres has now scored four in five days, knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League and lifting Chelsea to within a point of the Premier League’s top four.
This was a day that was supposed to be all about John Terry versus Anton Ferdinand. But that proved little more than a squalid sideshow to the headline story of Britain’s most expensive player rediscovering his form. Ferdinand soon realised that it was not going to be his day when he inadvertently teed up Daniel Sturridge for Chelsea’s opening goal after just 47 seconds.
Sturridge’s attempted pass inside deflected off Ferdinand’s leg and the England striker stepped inside to curl a beautiful right-footer inside Paddy Kenny’s near post.
Frank Lampard, standing in an offside position and directly in Kenny’s line of vision, ducked out of the way of Sturridge’s shot and QPR were so bewildered by their dismal start they forgot to appeal to the linesman.
That was bad enough for Ferdinand, but it got a whole lot worse when Terry rose above Clint Hill to head in Lampard’s 13th-minute corner.
With the game effectively over before it had hardly got started, it quickly became a damage- limitation exercise for a QPR team who are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Yet the visitors were an accident waiting to happen every time the ball came into their half. And it came as no surprise when Chelsea extended their lead after 19 minutes.
Juan Mata’s pass was quickly moved on by Salomon Kalou behind the static Rangers’ defence, where Torres skipped round the stranded Kenny to score.
The next goal came after 25 minutes, when Kenny came out to gather Mata’s chip but was undone by a Nedum Onuoha header which bounced off his chest into Torres’ path. The Spaniard could have had his hat-trick wrapped up by half-time but lashed Lampard’s pass just wide of the target.
But he did not have to wait too long to get his hands on the match ball, racing through a huge gap in Rangers’ defence to coolly shoot inside the far post from another slide-rule Mata pass.
Cue Roman Abramovich high-fiving with his cronies up in his executive box. Chelsea’s billionaire owner might have missed Tuesday’s miracle in the Nou Camp but three goals from Torres was not a bad consolation for football’s most demanding boss. QPR were reeling like a punch-drunk brawler wondering where the next blow was coming from.
If Mark Hughes could have thrown in the towel, he would have.
Unfortunately for Sparky, there was still another 25 minutes to go, more than enough time for Chelsea to inflict further damage. And a sixth goal duly arrived 10 minutes from time when Ferdinand got a leg to Ramires’ low cross but only teed up sub Florent Malouda to lash home from close range.
Djibril Cisse reduced the arrears six minutes from the end of a miserable afternoon. But it was not enough to deny Chelsea their biggest win of this craziest of seasons. No wonder the fans are singing Roberto Di Matteo’s name in a way they never did for Andre Villas-Boas. Abramovich, high up in his West Stand lair, could hardly miss such a public show of support for his interim manager.
Chelsea have now lost just once in 16 games under the Italian.
Their prospects are in stark contrast to QPR, who have now lost their last six aways and taken just one point on their travels since Hughes arrived in January.
And they will not be safe when they go to title-chasing Manchester City on the final day of the season, no matter what happns at home to Stoke next Sunday. DREAM TEAM
STAR MAN — FERNANDO TORRES (CHELSEA)
CHELSEA: Cech 7, Ferreira 7, Bosingwa 7 (Hutchinson 5), Terry 8, Cole 7, Mata 7 (Malouda 6), Essien 7, Lampard 7, Sturridge 7, Torres 9, Kalou 7 (Ramires 6). Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Drogba, Meireles.
QPR: Kenny 5, Onuoha 4, Ferdinand 4, Hill 4, Taiwo 4, Mackie 4, Barton 4, Derry 4, Buzsaky 4 (Traore 5), Zamora 4 (Wright-Phillips 5), Cisse 5. Subs not used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Campbell, Young, Smith. Booked: Barton.
REF: H Webb 7
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