Fortune favors the brave.
I'm not a big fan of cliches like the aforementioned, but perhaps there's no better way to summarize the lucky break that allowed Fernando Torres to seal a win for Chelsea over title rivals Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Chelsea's No. 9 was truly in his element—intrepid and audacious—and got the just reward. It was the Spaniard who had the final say in a game of narrow margins.
Below is a detailed analysis of the performance of a man who was undoubtedly the standout player on the pitch.
Although he did eventually net the winner, Torres had a few other chances to find the mark. That was primarily down to his excellent movement.
In the 29th minute, a diagonal ball from Ramires on the right flank saw Torres beat the offside trap and left El Nino with just Joe Hart to beat. The Spaniard chested the ball down adeptly but, with seemingly all the time in the world, proceeded to smash the half-volley well over.
Just a few minutes prior to that miss, a half-chance appeared to have fallen the way of the former Liverpool man—on that occasion too from a Ramires cross. However, Branislav Ivanovic, who had also attempted to get on the end of it, was flagged offside.
By the time the first half had ended, Torres still hadn't registered on the scoresheet. On the bright side, he was getting into threatening positions, attacking the right areas and had atoned for a poor miss with the assist for Andre Schurrle's opener.
Powerful running with the ball
The likes of Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis failed miserably in their attempts to shackle Torres. Also, the one time that he took Gael Clichy on, Chelsea's No. 9 flew past his man and went all the way to the byline on the right before crossing for Schurrle to tap home. The kind of power play on show was akin to that of club legend Didier Drogba back in his glory days at the Bridge.
Torres delivered another moment of purposeful running when he skipped past a couple of challenges on the left, before coming within inches of producing a goal-of-the-season contender. After darting right to the edge of the box and then seemingly being crowded out, Torres nearly curled in a shot that would have done even the likes of Eric Cantona proud.
Although he was denied by the woodwork, it was another sign of the events that would unravel soon after.
Torres didn't have a lot of joy after the interval, but that was largely because City had the game by the scruff of its neck for large periods of the second half. When the goal finally did come, it was all about the individual's persistence and determination.
Chasing down a lost cause is one thing, but in this case, City were under pressure to get the ball clear. Another high-profile clanger from Joe Hart following a lack of communication with Nastasic gave Torres the chance to clinch all three points for Chelsea. Putting his pace and awareness to good use, he slotted the ball into the unguarded net.
Such was the 29-year-old's performance on the day, one feels the stroke of good fortune was deserved.
Shots (on target): 5(3)
Passes (successful): 15(10)
Aerial Duels (won): 5(3)
Take-ons (successful): 8(3)
Passes received: 30
*Stats courtesy FourFourTwo Stats Zone powered by Opta
Torres is indeed giving the team a different dimension up front, with the 6-footer clearly at his peak physically now. Supplemented by nimble-footed diminutive talents in attacking midfield, he brings that necessary physical edge, as duly noted by Jose Mourinho.
He was quoted on the official Chelsea website as follows:
With me, I only have good memories of Fernando, I know it's only a short time, three or four months. A missed goal doesn't matter, he was there fighting for it, our team isn't physical, we need his physicality.
The people playing behind him; Schurrle is fragile, Juan is little, Oscar is fragile, Hazard is little. You see City, even Aguero, he's the little one but he's a powerful tank, so we need Fernando, he gives us a lot. After that, if he scores or doesn't score it's okay, we know we can count on him.
The Chelsea gaffer's assessment is spot on.
The finishing is getting better, but even the Spaniard's ability to combine with the trio behind him is superior to link-up play of Chelsea's other two alternatives at centre-forward. His willingness to pull the trigger when given a sight of goal is something that's been missing for long too.
So is Torres "back"? Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown reckons the question is now irrelevant, and I second that.
Chelsea have now visited Old Trafford, Goodison Park and White Hart Lane, and hosted arguably the strongest side in the Premier League. Yet they sit two points off the top. Things are most certainly looking up for the Blues.
Newcastle United are up next, and they're a team conceding goals left, right and centre. Most would expect Torres to have a field day at St James' Park. In fact, if the recent displays against City, Schalke and Spurs are anything to go by, Torres could just find himself firing Chelsea to the title.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's keep in mind that the main hurdle still needs to be overcome. Mourinho must next seek consistency from his front man.