FERNANDO Torres netted a 90th-minute winner as Chelsea claimed a dramatic 2-1 Barclays Premier League win in a pulsating contest with fellow title-contenders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
One of the most eagerly-awaited games of the season so far, pitting together squads lavishly assembled by Roman Abramovich and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour and two former managers of Real Madrid, was decided by a much-maligned £50 million striker.
In a thrilling match, a rush of blood sent City goalkeeper Joe Hart out to reach a Willian through ball – a dreadful misjudgement which allowed Torres in to net a crucial winner and extend Chelsea’s 100 per cent start to the Premier League season at home.
Jose Mourinho celebrated the goal and the extension of his unbeaten Premier League run at Stamford Bridge to 65 games by leaping into the crowd, where he finished the prior home match with Cardiff following his touchline dismissal.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini walked straight down the players’ tunnel without shaking hands with Mourinho, in response to the Portuguese’s antics. “I didn’t shake hands. I didn’t want to,” Pellegrini said.
Mourinho apologised for his loss of decorum and said he was trying to find his son when he leaped into the crowd.
“If they feel I did something wrong I apologise,” said the Portuguese. “This is the drama of the last minute. He (Pellegrini) lost the game in the last minute and I have sympathy with that. In other countries and cultures we shake hands before the game and that is it.
“If he was sad because of the result I understand. If he was sad because I did something wrong I accept that too.”
Torres had missed a sitter earlier on and made amends by providing the cross for Andre Schurrle to tap in his first Chelsea goal. Torres then crashed a shot against the bar after terrorising the City defence with his pace for a second time. The Spain striker seemed to have designs on making the match all about one man, but another former Atletico Madrid striker had other ideas and Sergio Aguero struck his ninth goal in seven games for City four minutes into the second half.
Then Torres struck in a dramatic finale which Hart and City boss Manuel Pellegrini will not want to see again. It was the latest high-profile error by the goalkeeper as Willian’s ball caused a mix-up with Matija Nastasic – and an extremely costly one.
Pellegrini, though, refused to lay blame for the goal. He said: “I don’t think this is the moment to say who is to take blame. They scored the goal and we will analyse it in the week.”
Debutant Martin Demichelis – one of three changes to the City side which won at CSKA Moscow – conceded a third-minute corner when not under pressure and Gary Cahill squandered the opportunity to give Chelsea an early lead. City half cleared and Oscar’s cross was met by Cahill, who blasted over.
John Terry had been standing in an offside position, but a flag was not raised and Cahill was left to rue the chance.
City’s constant movement – particularly the attacking triumvirate of Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri – continually troubled Chelsea.
Frank Lampard was booked for fouling Fernandinho in the centre circle, thwarting another attack as Chelsea tried to get to grips with their opponents. The hosts were enjoying some space on the right between Silva and Clichy, with the rampaging Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires threatening. Torres atoned for a bad miss when Ivanovic flicked the ball on from a goal kick. Torres surged around Gael Clichy down the Chelsea right and rushed to the byline where he crossed for Schurrle to score.
Chelsea, and Torres in particular, were lifted and the striker smashed a shot on to the bar after another driving run which terrorised the City defence.
City made a fast start to the second half and, after Pablo Zabaleta shot over, were level when Nasri’s through ball caught Cahill flat-footed. Aguero ghosted in behind the defender and beat Petr Cech at the near post with a first-time shot.
Javi Garcia was unmarked when he had a header saved from Silva’s free kick soon after. Chelsea appealed for a penalty when Hazard went down under the challenge of Zabaleta, but the Belgium forward’s cause was not helped by a flamboyant fall which had referee Howard Webb unmoved. Torres had a header held by Hart and was then cynically blocked by Garcia in a move more at home in Sunday’s NFL contest at Wembley. Try as they might, still Chelsea could not subdue City and Cech saved with his feet from Silva before Mourinho turned to his bench.
He replaced Schurrle with Willian and Lampard with John Obi Mikel, while Pellegrini opted for Jesus Navas in place of Nasri. The threat of Aguero was constant and he chipped narrowly wide after being found by Silva. Ramires shot over as an end-to-end contest entered the final ten minutes and Mourinho made another change, throwing on Samuel Eto’o for Hazard. Then Torres settled matters in Chelsea’s favour. Willian’s lofted pass caused Nastasic and Hart all kinds of trouble and Torres nipped in to score ahead of the covering Demichelis.
A delighted Torres said: “When you win a game like this against a great team like Manchester City in the last minutes it feels much better. I think we controlled most of the game and we had more chances in the first half.”
Of Torres’ late winner, Mourinho added: “It was a lucky situation, although you could say a belief situation because Fernando had the belief (to chase a lost cause).”