Torres steers Chelsea into Club World Cup final
YOKOHAMA, Japan — A resurgent Fernando Torres scored his fifth goal in three matches to help Chelsea reach the Club World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Monterrey on Thursday.
The Spain striker scored the second goal for the Champions League winners just 16 seconds into the second half.
“He’s doing well. He is much sharper,” said Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez, who was hired last month. “I hope it will be more of the same in the future.”
Torres has now scored in three consecutive matches for the first time since joining Chelsea for around $80 million in January 2011 from Liverpool, where he also played under compatriot Benitez.
And with 12 goals now this season, Torres has surpassed last season’s haul as he enters the second half of the campaign.
“It’s a run, and that’s good for him and good for us,” Benitez said. “Hopefully it will continue.”
The final on Sunday will be the first for Chelsea and Copa Libertadores champ Corinthians, which edged Egypt’s Al-Ahly 1-0 in the other semifinal on Wednesday.
“It was a good game for us,” Benitez said. “We had good tempo, good play and a lot of possibilities for us. I am pleased with the performance of our team.”
Torres put Chelsea up 2-0 when he took a pass from Eden Hazard and hit a left-footed shot that deflected in off a Monterrey defender. Two minutes later, Juan Mata’s cross was knocked in by Monterrey defender Darvin Chavez for an own goal that made it 3-0.
CONCACAF champion Monterrey finally scored through Aldo De Nigris in injury time. Monterrey will face Al-Ahly in the third-place game on Sunday.
“We regret that we lost the way we did,” Monterrey coach Victor Vuctich said. “There was a short time where we lost our concentration.”
Chelsea scored the only goal of the first half in the 17th minute. Oscar made a nifty back-heel pass to Ashley Cole, who centered the ball to Mata, who powered a low drive from 15 meters.
“To win the way we won was very important,” Mata said. “We want to win this trophy to be the world champs. We were focused on scoring more goals and this has given us confidence for the final.”
Chelsea’s form has risen of late, with Benitez’s imprint on the club starting to show since he replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo last month.
Chelsea became the first Champions League winner to fail to reach the knockout stage, but has now won three straight matches.
Benitez has led a team to the Club World Cup final for the third time, following Liverpool (lost) in 2005 and Inter Milan (won) in 2010.
Europe has won the last five finals, and Manchester United is the only English club to have won it, in 1999 and 2008.