Last week, I watched a match that I would regard as one of my most enjoyable in my time as a Chelsea fan.
A performance so polished which ably demonstrated the unity and strength of our team and the ability of the players to get the right result on the day. A display which delighted us all as Chelsea fans and brought dismay to the supporters of our opponents who could only agonise as we brought their inflated collection of players sharply down to earth.
And of course, Fernando Torres scored… three goals in fact.
Yes, the 6-1 demolition of Queens Park Rangers last Sunday is one that will live long in my memory banks, as will the 2-2 draw in Barcelona earlier in the week.
But while the former was a largely agonising 90 minutes in which the spectre of defeat hung over until the cathartic release of Torres’ breakaway goal in stoppage time, the west London derby was a joy from the moment that Daniel Sturridge smashed in the opener after 45 seconds.
For the first time since October’s 5-1 win over Bolton, I could sit back and enjoy a Blues game, savouring every moment as we tore out the hearts of our opponents goal by goal.
Why did I enjoy the game so much? I have four reasons.
Firstly, it was an instant antidote to accusations that we were a dull and defensive side after the Barcelona tie. The way that we played those games reflected our huge respect for Barça as an attacking force and the need to adapt our play to counter their tika-taka style. We didn’t play negative football; we played a tactically effective and disciplined game that brought us one of the most memorable results in our history.
Secondly, it showed our ability to get a huge performance from our players in a domestic match just days after our exertions on the continental stage. That shouldn’t be a real surprise because we’ve won eight of our last nine games on the weekend after a Champions League game but with the matches coming thick and fast before the end of the season, the strength in depth of our squad will be greatly tested. So to make six changes to our line-up and to still get a great result speaks volumes.
Thirdly, Torres got a hat-trick. He looks to have got his confidence back and that can only be a huge plus as we come to our last few crucial games.
And finally, it just felt good to hammer QPR. Let me firstly qualify that this has nothing to do with the goings-on that resulted in the sensible cancellation of the pre-match handshakes. It goes back much further than that.
Long before we were a major force in England or Europe, QPR were bitter rivals. In fact, in the 1970s and 1980s when we struggled against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs (but always seemed to beat Man United), they were perhaps our biggest rivals.
For me personally, my early memories of supporting the Blues are scarred by the memory of 1986 when they eliminated us in the quarter-finals of the League Cup (when it was still a fairly big competition) and then hammered us 6-0 on their plastic pitch on Easter Monday.
It’s taken 26 years to extract a measure of revenge for that result although I would have enjoyed it more if we could have scored seven or more. That may have to wait until next season… assuming that they are in the same division by then.
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