Has Torres Scored For Chelsea?

Yes, yes he has.

The Spaniard’s first goal in Chelsea blue kicked off wild celebrations at Stamford Bridge as it put the seal on three hard-earned points against West Ham in conditions which at times bordered on the absurd.

Frank Lampard’s first half opener had given the Blues a deserved lead but the visitors proved tenacious and wouldn’t go down without a fight. Torres’ left-footed finish put daylight between the two sides, and Florent Malouda’s stoppage time piledriver put the gloss on affairs.

Carlo Ancelotti made just one change to the team which beat Birmingham in midweek, bringing Branislav Ivanovic back into the defensive unit in place of Paulo Ferreira. Everybody else kept their starting places for the third successive game.

The visitors missed talismanic Football Writers’ Player of the Season Scott Parker, but featured former Chelsea players in Carlton Cole and Wayne Bridge alongside manager Avram Grant.

A lively start from the hosts threatened to make West Ham’s afternoon uncomfortable but Malouda was unable to convert either of his early openings.

Fifteen minutes in and the heavens opened. After a particularly warm and sunny start to the day, Londoners decked out in shorts and t-shirts were sent running for cover (from the front rows of the West Stand at least) as the rain began to pour.

Petr Cech was forced to make a smart save low to his left to deny Jonathan Spector a goal, the American sprawling to head a cross from the right after the Hammers broke away on the counter.

With players skidding about and losing their footing, the game struggled to find any fluency, which suited West Ham’s approach perfectly. They began to threaten and Spector was denied again by a sharp clearance on the line by Ashley Cole.

Instead, Lampard opened the scoring a minute before half time to cap a fine move. Drogba’s slide-rule pass released Cole, who cut back for the onrushing midfielder to slam high into the roof of the net.

A poignant celebration followed a day short of the third anniversary of his mother’s passing.

More rain fell during half time, making the pitch even harder to play on, and more treacherous for the players. Michael Essien discovered this to his cost as he fell awkwardly, suffering a knee injury and was forced off. Yossi Benayoun replaced him.

The Hammers saw another effort cleared from the line when Mikel was on hand to deny Manuel Da Costa, but were taking heart from the problems Cole and Demba Ba were causing the Blues’ defenders.

Lampard, having his best game in weeks, tested Green’s reflexes at the other end with a dipping effort which was beaten away, but Malouda could only put the rebound into the side netting.

David Luiz then curled a beauty from the edge of the area which left the goalkeeper rooted to the spot, but the ball crashed back off the crossbar. In response, Ba extended Cech with a thundersome effort from well outside the box.

Anelka and Torres were introduced with fifteen minutes to go, and instantly combined to fashion an opening. Torres unselfishly squared a ball to the Frenchman, who saw his goalbound effort headed away by Gabbidon, his goalkeeper nowhere.

Six minutes from time, pandemonium ensued. Anelka’s through ball released Torres, who tried to round Green but saw the ball held up on the wet turf.

He was the first to adjust and with everyone else still going one way, he spun and delivered a tidy finish into the back of the net to seal the win.

Buoyed by the celebrations, Malouda added a third with a screamer from the edge of the area after the ball ran loose from Torres.

It was his fourteenth of the season, beating his previous best tally set last season.

Taking conditions and the effort put in by West Ham into account, it must go down as a good performance by Chelsea, for whom Lampard, Drogba, Cech and Mikel played well throughout.

For Blues fans though, there is only one subject of conversation this Saturday evening.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Essien (Benayoun 56), Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Anelka 69), Drogba (Torres 75), Malouda.
Subs not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Bertrand, Zhirkov.

West Ham (4-3-3): Green (c); Jacobsen, Da Costa, Gabbidon, Bridge; Noble (Keane 59), Hitzlsperger, Sears (Obinna 81); Spector, Cole (Piquionne 78), Ba.
Subs not Used: Boffin, Tomkins, Kovac, Boa Morte.