They say it’s like waiting for London buses. But no bus takes 1,541 minutes to arrive. And how the wait will have been killing Torres and all Chelsea fans. Relief prevailed over delight, etched all over the Spaniard’s face. But Fernando finally scored, not once, but twice. Twenty five games after his last goal, he teases us with two, to round off a marvellous personal display. Two assists were thrown in too, and even the most loyal of haters will have been delighted to see Torres get a brace, as were all the Chelsea players, who all celebrated with the 27-year-old. In two days, he celebrates his 28th birthday. In the meantime, he can celebrate two goals, a Man Of The Match performance, and an FA Cup semi-final against either Tottenham or Bolton at Wembley.
Though on paper an easy tie, after the heroics on Wednesday night, Roberto Di Matteo made seven changes from the side that fought their way through 120 minutes. Bosingwa, Cahill and Bertrand slotted into defence, with Meireles and Mikel anchoring. Kalou and Torres both started, with Cole, Terry, Lampard and Drogba all rested.
But any potential fears of an upset were conspicuous by its absence, Chelsea continuing to display a very eager performance. Torres found space on the right and passed to Mata, but the winger’s right foot shot was deflected behind.
But Chelsea did not have to wait long for the eventual goal. Gary Cahill scored his first goal for Chelsea, powerfully heading in a Mata corner, before revealing a poignant “Pray 4 Muamba” t-shirt underneath, in support for his former team-mate.
Chelsea were sitting comfortably for Leicester were not. Just six minutes later, Chelsea doubled their advantage with a devastating counter-attack. Torres was again out wide, and when he spotted Kalou in the middle, the Ivorian calmly passed the ball into the net: 2-0 and cruising.
Chelsea could easily have been out of sight, but failed to make the most of Leicester’s vulnerabilities in the first half. Sturridge selfishly held onto the ball when Torres was in space, though one cannot criticise the England man’s desire to get into the England Euro 2012 team too much. Indeed, the want is refreshing.
With one eye on the Manchester City match mid-week, Mata went off and Malouda came on. Leicester had a chance to half the deficit, but Dyer’s shot fizzed past Cech’s post. Torres continued to go close, doing everything right but appearing to be cursed in front of goal.
But Torres was not to be denied his goal today. Meireles squared to Torres, who took one touch to control the ball, and another to roll it into the corner of Schmeichel’s net. The former Liverpool friends celebrated, and the entire stadium were in raptures. Torres rounded off the celebration with a thankful applause to all the supporters who had been behind him in the torrid times he had.
The world was his oyster now. Within a minute, he could have doubled his lead, but his shot went over the bar. But it was Leicester who scored the game’s next goal. Danns’ ran and ran and when his shot rebounded off the post, all Jermaine Beckford had to do was score from close range. Di Matteo felt it was wise to replace Ivanovic, Luiz coming on in his place, to make sure no nervy finish was to come.
And it wasn’t. The action continued at the other end, and the action, once again, was with Torres. In the 85th minute, Meireles’ corner was meeted by Torres, and his flick was enough to get past a rooted Schmeichel.
But Leicester weren’t finished there. Ben Marshall cut inside and fired an absolute screamer past Cech, who could do nothing.
But this memorable match was to produce another goal. Torres returned the favour for Meireles, laying the ball off to the Portuguese who slotted home in stoppage time.
The match ended there. Some 6,000 Leicester fans turned up, and though they were at the wrong end in the result, they certainly saw a good match. Torres had the last laugh. Wembley’s place is booked. How Chelsea will now hope he will fire from all cylinders in the league, so a Champions League spot is booked also.