Chelsea recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory over Rubin Kazan in the first leg of the quarter final clash of the Europa League with Fernando Torres emerging as the star of the show. The Spanish international struck twice, one in each half, as he produced a sharp display after a long time. The Russian side, however, have an away goal to show for their efforts, and go into the second leg hoping to make it count in what will be difficult conditions for the Londoners to adjust in.
Rafa Benitez’s side started the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation bringing in new faces to keep players fresh from the fixture congestion they are facing. Frank Lampard started along with Ramires in the holding midfielder’s role behind the attacking trio of Yossi Benayoun, Juan Mata and Victor Moses supporting Torres in attack. Captain John Terry was given a start after being benched for the FA Cup win against Manchester United at the start of the week.
|Benitez shuffled his pack to keep the players fresh|
Rubin Kazan, however, started with the impressive Bibras Natkho in an attacking role just behind the striker Vladimir Dyadyun with French international Yann M’vila absent due to injury. Their top scorer in the Europa League, Salomon Rondon, started on the bench as manager Kurban Berdyev opted to go ahead with some much needed experience in his attack.
|Rondon surprisingly started on the bench for the Russians
The game started positively for the hosts as they penetrated the visitor's defense right from the onset. Mata was at his usual best, sneaking in passes behind the defense to open up spaces for his fellow attackers. The highlight of the show was, however, Torres, as the much maligned striker made his presence felt. He used his strength to hold up the ball quite often, something which one doesn’t associate the Spaniard with.
In the 16th minute, David Luiz having noticed Torres’ run across his marker, found him with a long ball over the defence. The Chelsea number nine duly obliged, as he poked the ball home after an initial scramble in the six yard box.
|Torres was an inspired presence against Rubin
Rubin Kazan's attack was limited to a few long range attempts as John Terry's experience coming in handy at the back.
With the home side 1-0 up, their confidence rose and so did their level of play, as the Blues' began dominating proceedings. Moses and Benayoun came more into the game providing width and attempting to ease the burden on Mata who was clearly running the show. The only disappointment of an otherwise decent first half up to this point was the anonymity of Frank Lampard, who had hardly made an impression.
The second goal always looked on the way and came when Moses unleashed a thunderous volley after some good play by Benayoun and Torres. It became rather too easily for them as a 2-0 lead put them in a commanding position in the tie.
|Super Frank has had better days
Thereafter Chelsea eased off the pressure and allowed the opposition to see more of the ball. After good work down the left side, Natcho's shot struck John Terry's arm leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot. Natcho stepped up and converted the spot-kick with composure, in the process putting the tie back in the balance as the visitors had got a valuable away goal.
The prospect of going back to Russia with a one goal deficit was a good one considering the experiences Chelsea have had at the Luzhniki stadium where they lost the 2007-08 Champions League final to Manchester United.
After the break, Rondon's introduction didn't really change the fortunes as Chelsea continued to dominate the proceedings.
|El Nino puts the tie to bed with his second
The Pensioners' were in search of another goal to restore their two goal lead. And with Torres in such rich vein of form, at least for the evening, it had to arrive. Mata put in a pin-point cross from the far left, which the Spaniard nodded powerfully in the 70th minute, past the hapless Sergei Ryzhikov and put Chelsea firmly on course to qualify into the semis.
Rubin Kazan's hope of scoring a second away goal was not fulfilled. They have it all to do now back home as they have to use the intimidating atmosphere of the Luzhniki Stadium to rattle the nerves of the Blues' and hope to progress.
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