Torres at the double as Chelsea, Arsenal bite back
LONDON (AFP) –
Fernando Torres claimed a brace as Chelsea ended a run of seven Premier League games without victory by prevailing 3-1 at Sunderland on Saturday in their last game before the Club World Cup.
The Spaniard had not scored in the league since October 6 but he found the net twice in the mid-week thrashing of FC Nordsjaelland in the Champions League and was in unforgiving mood once again at the Stadium of Light.
He opened his account in the 11th minute, guiding Eden Hazard’s cross into the top-left corner with a fine volley to end a 770-minute goal drought in the league.
Torres had been overlooked for penalty-taking duties in the 6-1 win against Nordsjaelland, but he notched his second goal from the spot on the stroke of half-time after Sebastian Larsson slid in on Ramires.
Juan Mata made it 3-0 early in the second half, side-footing home after a Torres shot came back off the crossbar, before a fine effort from Adam Johnson gave Sunderland a consolation.
“It was a long time not to score in the Premier League, but I have scored a few this week, and I was very happy to see the team winning,” Torres told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We are playing a bit different now. We do not pass the ball as much as we did in the final third and we play a bit more direct. We are attacking more and creating more.”
It was a first win in four league games for interim manager Rafael Benitez and saw Chelsea close to within four points of second-place Manchester City, who trail leaders Manchester United by three points ahead of Sunday’s derby.
Arsenal also returned to winning ways after three games without victory, beating West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium through a pair of Mikel Arteta penalties to climb to sixth.
Both penalties carried an air of controversy.
Prior to Arteta’s 26th-minute opener, Steven Reid was penalised for a foul on Santi Cazorla despite failing to make any contact with the Spanish midfielder, who collapsed theatrically.
Arteta’s second arrived in the 64th minute and although there was no doubt about Chris Brunt’s foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, West Brom felt the England winger had committed an offence of his own in the build-up.
“I spoke to Cazorla and he said that he (Reid) tapped him,” said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger.
“Overall, we played well, created chances, and kept a clean sheet. There was no room for dropping any points and I feel it is a positive day.”
It was a third straight defeat for fifth-place West Brom, whose lead over Arsenal has been cut to two points.
Bottom club Queens Park Rangers remain without a win in 16 games — a new Premier League record — after being held to a 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic.
QPR captain Ryan Nelsen cancelled out James McCarthy’s 19th-minute opener for the hosts before substitute Djibril Cisse gave the visitors the lead from Shaun Wright-Phillips’ pass in the 71st minute.
Harry Redknapp was less than 20 minutes away from a first win as QPR manager, only for McCarthy to strike again in the 74th minute, controlling Jean Beausejour’s left-wing cross and then coolly prodding the ball home.
“It’s astonishing, to tell you the truth,” said Nelsen of QPR’s unwanted record. “There’s not been that many games where we have been out of it.
“There’s no excuses. We’re confident we can get out of it.”
Southampton clambered out of the relegation zone and up to 15th place after a 61st-minute strike from Jason Puncheon secured a 1-0 win at home to second-bottom Reading.
The Saints’ win saw Sunderland slip into the bottom three, while Aston Villa fell one place to 16th after drawing 0-0 at home to Stoke City.
The clash at Liberty Stadium between Swansea City and Norwich City was a pulsating affair, the visitors winning 4-3 to end the Swans’ six-game unbeaten run and prolong their own run of games without defeat to nine matches.
Goals from Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt put Norwich 3-0 up at the break but Swansea came back into the game through Michu and Jonathan De Guzman before Robert Snodgrass’ 77th-minute free-kick made it 4-2.
Michu found the net again in injury time — his 12th goal of the season — but it was too late to prevent Norwich moving up to 11th.