Posted on Apr 29
Fernando Torres hit his first Chelsea hat-trick as the Blues stepped up their bid for a top four finish with a 6-1 demolition of west London rivals QPR on Sunday.
Torres has endured a mostly miserable 15 months since his British record £50 million move from Liverpool, but the Spanish striker looks revitalised after his crucial late goal in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final triumph against Barcelona.
He was far too hot for QPR's statuesque defenders to handle and scored twice in the first half and once after the break to seal his first treble since September 2009, when he scored three for Liverpool against Hull.
Early strikes from Daniel Sturridge and John Terry had set the tone as the Blues destroyed QPR with four goals in the first 25 minutes at Stamford Bridge and Florent Malouda completed their biggest Premier League win of the season.
Chelsea move above Tottenham, who host Blackburn later on Sunday, into fifth place and within one point of fourth placed Newcastle, who visit the Bridge on Wednesday.
With the FA Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday and the Champions League final against Bayern Munich next month, Chelsea are eyeing a glorious end to a difficult season.
In contrast, QPR, who netted late on through Djibril Cisse, are above the relegation zone only on goal difference and face a nervous finale as they try to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
The match had started without the traditional pre-match handshake, which was scrapped to avoid affecting Terry's upcoming trial over charges of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
But Sturridge, one of six changes made by interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, quickly got the focus back on football.
Just 45 seconds after kick off, Sturridge opened the scoring with a ferocious strike from the left edge of the penalty area that flashed past Paddy Kenny at his near post.
Confidence was clearly surging through Chelsea after the epic win at the Camp Nou and Frank Lampard went close to increasing the lead when his delicate chip forced Kenny to tip over.
That was only a temporary escape for QPR as Terry got the second goal from the resulting corner, the Chelsea captain out-muscling Clint Hill to reach Juan Mata's corner and direct a downwards header past Kenny from close-range.
There was a real menace about Chelsea every time they came forward and Torres, preferred up front to Didier Drogba, reprised his decisive effort against Barca to effectively kill off QPR in the 19th minute.
Salomon Kalou played an exquisite pass from the right flank towards Torres, who made a perfectly timed run into the penalty area before rounding Kenny and slotting home from a tight angle.
While it was Chelsea's defensive resilience that earned the plaudits in Barcelona, this was a chance for their forwards to take the spotlight against opponents who looked totally out of their depth in the face of such incisive attacking.
The fourth goal arrived in the 25th minute when Nedum Onuoha's panicked attempt to head a Lampard pass back toward Kenny surprised the QPR goalkeeper, who had raced off his line in an attempt to deal with the danger.
As the ball slipped out of Kenny's grasp, Torres was able to pick his spot and slide his 10th goal of the season into the empty net.
After such a craven capitulation in the first half, QPR were happy to opt for damage limitation after the break.
But Torres was able to complete his treble with a cool finish from Mata's pass in the 64th minute, prompting Blues owner Roman Abramovich to exchange delighted high fives with friends in his executive box.
French midfielder Malouda came off the bench to sweep home Chelsea's sixth goal in the 80th minute before Cisse got one back for QPR with a hooked finish four minutes later.