Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Isn't Turning into Another Torres-Basher Column, Is It? Um. Well. er. Kind of Yes

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Isn't Turning into Another Torres-Basher Column, Is It? Um. Well. er. Kind of Yes

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

TREND bucked. Chelsea flirted with point dropping yesterday -- much as they did against Southampton last Wednesday.

But for once there were cheers for the final whistle at Stamford Bridge -- rather than boos, curses against the name of Rafael Benitez and the tramp of damp feet heading early to the exits.

It was Chelsea's first home win since Christmas. They just about deserved it.

Sometimes we forget how much genius is in Chelsea's first XI. Much of it is in Juan Mata's boots. His goal yesterday was one of the loveliest you'll see -- even if, technically, it shouldn't have been scored, since Francis Coquelin had had his foot tenderised by Ramires during the build-up.

Cesar Azpilicueta's crossfield pass to Mata was beautiful and true but the ease with which Mata brought down the ball on his left foot, before using the same to smash it past Wojciech Szczesny was something else.

There is grace in football; art too. Juan Mata is an artist.

(By the way, don't we think that Mata looks somewhat like a sixteenth-century Spanish aristocrat? The thick half-beard, the slightly haunted eyes, the strong jaw and broad features: he would suit a ruff and a pair of those silly Habsburg-era tights. But I see I have wandered from my point.) Anyway. During yesterday's first half in particular, Mata was outstanding in Chelsea's layered midfield. He was at least as good in attack as the man of the match, Ramires, was in defence.

It was entirely unsurprising that he was also involved in Chelsea's second goal: his ball finding Ramires to draw the penalty that Frank Lampard stroked home.

There were only two blots on Mata's brilliance yesterday.

The first was of his own making.

In the second half, when Chelsea were struggling, he lost his rag, picking up an uncharacteristic yellow card for booting the ball away. The second blot was more comparative.

For Mata's goodness served as an unwelcome counterpoint for his countryman Fernando Torres's continuing badness. …

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