Chelsea win over Man City but celebrations on hold for Torres

Chelsea leapfrog City but striker must have had better birthdays.

It is not one of the conventional milestones in a lifetime, but a 27th birthday has rather more significance for a footballer.

His greatest deeds may lie in the future, but, increasingly, the majority of his playing days appear to be in the past.

Barring goalkeepers and the occasional physical freak who lingers on until he is 40, it seems the start of the second half of his career.

Yet as Fernando Torres turned 27 yesterday, it was with the opportunity to shape the future.



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With Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka demoted to the bench, Carlo Ancelotti appeared to have established the pecking order in the Chelsea attack, a comparative youngster placed ahead of his seniors.

In a match of this magnitude, it could not be disguised as squad rotation.

Chelsea's belated recognition that eternal youth is not one of the gifts of their golden generation has brought an overhaul.

With the exuberant David Luiz, the energetic Ramires and the expensive Torres, there are recent additions in every department.

Two scored as Chelsea secured their third successive league win to both beat and leapfrog Manchester City in the league.

Yet the poster boy for the passing of the baton was the exception.

Torres is a paradox.

Some argued his attitude at Liverpool was that of a sulking teenager, yet this season has seemed the mid-life crisis of his career.

There is the sense that time is running out, prompting the switch to Stamford Bridge, and indications of ageing.

The inability to glide clear of defenders once left struggling for air in his slipstream prompted talk his powers were on the wane.

Yesterday, there were signs of speed and sharpness returning to his game.

However, the salient statistic from his 70 minutes is that a seventh game for Chelsea still has not produced an end product. Goals are the currency in which he deals, and Torres is yet to start repaying the £50 million (Dh297m) fee.

City handled him adeptly, defending so deeply that there was little scope for Chelsea to slide passes forward for one of his trademark runs.

Such space as there was - and the excellent Nigel de Jong did his utmost to limit it - was opened up behind the Spaniard, not in front of him.

This, perhaps, was why the chances fell the way of others. One, indeed, was the result of a delightful flick by Torres to release Ramires, leading to a Frank Lampard effort Vincent Kompany blocked.

The record recruit displayed a greater involvement in general play, too, and signs of an understanding with his new colleagues.

Yet his ongoing drought prompted his withdrawal, Torres muttering as he made his way off and Drogba came on.

The old guard reasserted its authority when the Ivorian's free kick was headed in by January's cheaper newcomer.

The celebrating signing is David Luiz, the new cult hero with a clinical touch who is outscoring Torres two goals to nil.

The assist was a reminder that Drogba's set-piece prowess makes him the most creative of the Chelsea strike force.

He has another aspect to his game and a handy habit of making an impact as a substitute but, as a direct replacement for Torres, was unable to counter the theory they are mutually exclusive.

As Chelsea claimed third place it was concrete proof that the "bad moment", as Ancelotti termed their extended blip, is over.

Chelsea may have been revitalised by investment, but the curiosity is that neither Torres nor any of their other forwards have scored a league goal since his arrival.

David Luiz is the catalyst, Ramires, the scorer of a stellar second goal, a transformed player after an awkward start.

While the boys from Brazil blossomed, Torres remains unfulfilled at Stamford Bridge.

Happy Birthday, Fernando Torres? Despite the result, he's had better.