English Premiership

Chelsea owner's faith pays off

2012-04-29 18:46
Fernando Torres (AFP)

London - It was hard to tell who was happier at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Chelsea striker Fernando Torres revelling in his hat-trick or owner Roman Abramovich sporting a smile wider than the gulf in class between his side and hapless Queens Park Rangers.

Torres blew kisses and saluted the crowd after his second and third goals in the 6-1 Premier League rout and tucked away high up in the stand, unshaven Russian oligarch Abramovich was just as enigmatic.

Abramovich, like Torres, has spent much of the season with a furrowed brow with poor form and player unrest leading to the dismissal of coach Andre Villas-Boas in early March.

That sombre expression appears to have long gone. He greeted Torres's hat-trick with vigorous high-fives, ending a week in which the billionaire owner can look forward to a Champions League final, an FA Cup final and the remainder of a Premier League season in which his side are still chasing a top four finish.

A free-scoring Torres can only have enhanced his mood.

While Abramovich must ponder whether to appoint Italian Roberto Di Matteo as coach on a permanent basis after inspiring a revival since the sacking of Villas-Boas, he can finally relax about his expensive Spanish striker.

Torres has misfired at Chelsea since he moved for a British record transfer fee of £50m from Liverpool in January last year, but appears to have regained the form that made him one of the most feared and clinical frontmen in Europe.

"It's a different feeling to what I had," Torres told Sky Sports after his hat-trick, which followed his goal in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on Tuesday.

"In the past I was feeling very good, my fitness was very sharp and I was playing very well but I couldn't score.

"But now, to be honest, I feel I'm not playing as good as before but I'm scoring goals which is the most important thing for strikers."

Torres, 28, has struggled for goals ever since leaving Liverpool.

It took him until late April last season to get off the mark and before Sunday he only had eight to his name this season, with just three of those in the Premier League.

Finding himself often among the substitutes, as he had under Carlo Ancelotti and then Villas-Boas, is now likely to be a thing of the past under Di Matteo.

Torres said Chelsea had hit top form at just the right time.

"We knew we needed to finish in the top four and win all the games for rest of the season," he said.

"I am very happy with three (goals), hopefully the first of many, but the more important thing for me is the team looks like they are playing their best football of the season with important games to come."

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