Torres grabs brace as Chelsea beat Schalke
Torres got the nod to start ahead of Samuel Eto’o and the £50 million man repaid Jose Mourinho's faith with five minutes gone when he stooped to head past Timo Hildebrand at a corner.
Having taken the lead, Chelsea were willing to sit back and soak up pressure before looking to hit their hosts on the break but the home side grew in stature as the half progressed.
And they would have been level had it not been for the fine reflexes of Petr Cech and a last-ditch CÃ©sar Azpilicueta challenge to deny a Roman Neustadter header and a Julian Draxler volley respectively as the half drew to a close.
Having been in the ascendancy as the game reached the interval, the hosts failed to replicate that performance level in the second-half and failed to muster any real chances of note bar a Benedikt Howedes header that whistled past the post.
Torres, who looks to have regained some of his old swagger, thudded a header against the post from a Frank Lampard free-kick before adding a second on 68 minutes when he finished off a rapid break involving Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Schalke continued to pour forward and, in the ultimate professional performance, the Blues broke again at pace to score a third with 87 minutes gone after Ramires had released Hazard, who skipped past a flailing challenge and slotted home with aplomb.
Meanwhile, Torres believes the opening Champions League loss to Basle provided a reality check for Jose Mourinho‘s men which is now paying dividends. The Swiss side inflicted defeat on the Blues in their first Group E match, ending a 13-match unbeaten run at home in European competition to leave Mourinho’s side in danger of a second successive early elimination from the Champions League.
But the 2012 European Cup winners responded with a 4-0 win at Steaua Bucharest and Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory at Schalke which took them to the top of the standings.
“We are top of the group again after not the best start of the competition at home against Basle,” said Torres, who scored twice in Gelsenkirchen.
“Now we have two games at home, one game away, so we’re in the position we wanted.
“These kind of things (defeat to Basle) are good when it happens at the beginning of the season, when the games are not crucial and we have time to fix it, like we have done now.
“When these kind of things happen at the end of the season, you lose competitions, you lose titles and it’s not good. Hopefully we’ve learnt the lesson and it won’t happen again.
“This is a young squad. New manager, new style, new players. It’s not easy to settle quickly.
“We are on the way. We’re improving, we’re building up, we’re learning as a group.”
Chelsea’s progress is now in their control ahead of the November 6, Stamford Bridge clash with Schalke, another home game with Steaua and the trip to Basle which concludes the group stage.
“The good thing is we depend on ourselves now,” Torres said.
“Three points at home against Schalke and we’ll be very close to finishing first in the group.
“When you finish top of the group you know it’s much better than finishing second, because you don’t have to play against the best teams in the competition.
“We have to learn from the game against Basle at home. We know the game against Schalke is one we have to play to win, it’s not won before we play.
“We’ve learned a lot of good lessons this season as a group.”
Chelsea last term suffered the ignominy of becoming the first Champions League holders to exit at the group stage and responded by winning the second-tier Europa League, beating Basle in the semi-finals.
Another European trophy is Torres’ target, but again it is the European Cup he covets.
“The Champions League is what Chelsea has to play; Europa League is not a competition we want to win,” Torres said.
“We’re in the Champions League now, we don’t want to be involved in the Europa League again because we want to win the Champions League.
“First step is finish top of the group, or second, and after that we’ll see. It depends on the opponents.
“Sometimes Champions League depends as well on the draw. Sometimes you have an easy way until the semi-final or final; sometimes you have to beat the best teams and you cannot. Let’s go step by step. Schalke at home and we’ll see later.”
Wins against Steaua, Norwich, Cardiff and Schalke have seen Chelsea score 14 goals, conceding once, in a ruthless illustration of their firepower.
“We’re basing our football in the last few games on being strong in defence and exploring the spaces we have playing the counter attack,” Torres added.
“It’s a way that Chelsea didn’t used to play, but we have players that can play in that way.”
Torres’ brace on his 100th Chelsea start took his tally for the club to 39. He has four this season, but is still to score in the Premier League.
Torres, much-maligned following his B£50million move from Liverpool, is enjoying life under Mourinho.
“I know he likes people who work and it’s all about work,” Torres said.
“Work hard and you will have the reward. It sometimes takes lots of time, but at the end it will come.
“Hopefully it’s the start of many games in a row scoring goals.”
The Schalke contest was Chelsea’s second of five games in 15 days.
On Sunday Chelsea play Manchester City, before next Tuesday facing Arsenal in the Capital One Cup. Torres knows he will drop out of the side, but is ready when called upon.
“(I am) ready to play if I have to play, ready to help from outside if I have to be on the bench,” he said.
“We are in a squad and we need everyone together to reach the target.”