Chelsea produced an efficient display to comfortably beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 in their Europa League quarter-final first-leg game at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening, courtesy of two goals from Fernando Torres.
The hosts took the lead early on after the much-maligned Spaniard poked home from inside the area following a superb pass from David Luiz, and they had a second before the break after Victor Moses smashed a fantastic half-volley into the top corner.
However, the visitors pulled one back when John Terry was adjudged to have blocked a Christian Ansaldi shot with his arm, leaving Bebras Natcho to dispatch the penalty. But Torres managed to grab his second of the evening and Chelsea’s third after climbing highest in the box to nod home Juan Mata’s accurate delivery from the left.
Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez made six changes from the side that beat Manchester United in the FA Cup clash on Monday, with Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, John Mikel Obi, Oscar, Eden Hazard and Demba Ba making way for Torres, Terry, Frank Lampard, Ryan Bertand, Torres and Moses while Yossi Benayoun was handed a rare start.
Rubin Kazan manager Kurban Berdyev was without France international Yann M’Vila due to injury, while the competition’s second highest goalscorer Jose Salomon Rondon started on the bench alongside former Chelsea youngster Gokhan Tore, with Vladimir Dyadun handed the task of leading the line.
Both sides made a slow start until Torres found a breakthrough for the hosts 16th minute with a bundled finish from inside the six-yard box after latching on to a magnificent long pass from Luiz.
Shortly after the goal, a mazy run from Bertrand, during which he beat four men, saw his clipped goal-bound effort cleared off the line by Roman Sharonov with the goalkeeper beaten as the game started to awaken from its early slumber.
Following a flowing move which saw Sergei Ryzhikov tip away a Torres header, Chelsea kept the move alive with Benayoun working the ball inside the box to Moses, who let fly with a vicious strike into the top corner in the 32nd minute to double the team’s advantage.
The visitors managed to pull a goal back before the break, though, when an Ansaldi strike hit Terry’s arm inside the box in the 41st minute; Natcho stepped up to take the resulting penalty, expertly sending Petr Cech the wrong way from the spot.
Chelsea started the second half in the ascendancy once more, with only a wonderful save from Ryzhikov keeping the scores the same as he got down low to tip away a fizzing Mata strike after a superb move involving Luiz and Ramires.
With the Russian outfit offering little threat going forward, Chelsea extended their lead in the 70th minute with Torres grabbing his second of the evening, powerfully heading Mata’s excellent delivery past Ryzhikov in the 70th minute.
Despite a number of efforts from distance, Chelsea were unable to add a fourth goal and any extra gloss to what represented a surprisingly serene evening against a more than accommodating opponent. The Blues now head to Russia with a healthy advantage as they look to keep their silverware hopes alive.