Roman Abramovich had a more successful defence than his team did. On the day
The Colombian hit a first-half hat-trick and Miranda added a fourth in the
second as the winners of the
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole tweeted afterwards: “Well that was a lesson, absolute joke no fight, desire, passion, and a big reality check!!!!!! sorrycfcfans.”
Torres’ name had drawn huge cheers from the Atletico faithful when the teams were announced but they were swiftly singing in praise of their current No 9. From the first whistle, Falcao was all movement, all menace.
Always on his toes, always looking to race in behind Chelsea’s defensive line, the Colombian scored his second successive hat-trick in the space of four days. After putting three past Athletic Bilbao, Falcao dismantled Chelsea’s defence clinically.
John Terry, suspended from another Uefa showpiece event, had only just taken up his seat in the stands when Falcao first came calling, hitting the bar as Chelsea’s defence opened up embarrassingly.
He was merely adjusting his sights. After six minutes, Falcao sped down the inside-left channel before cleverly dinking the ball over Petr Cech and in off the post. And so it began. Chelsea hinted at a riposte, Eden Hazard shooting wide, before the Falcao Show resumed.
This time, the 26 year-old worked his magic on the right, teasing some space around Ashley Cole before sending the ball curling with his left foot past Cech. Named after the legendary Brazilian, Falcao was adding further lustre to his celebrated name. Chelsea were being outplayed and outmuscled with Falcao showing his willingness to become involved in the physical fray.
The European champions were so poor, managing only a few attempts on goal. Hazard dummied his way past Mario Suarez and then slipped the ball down the inside-left channel to Torres. Miranda stepped across calmly to clear. Miranda Hart could have played in Atletico’s defence such was the Europa League winners’ total control.
For the small knot of Chelsea fans this must have been excruciating and alarming to behold. Barring Terry, Chelsea were arguably at full-strength. Torres led the line, Ramires, Hazard and Juan Mata sought to support him while Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel attempted to shield the back-four. Unsuccessfully.
Branislav Ivanovic looked vulnerable to pacey insurgents while Gary Cahill and David Luiz suffered the jitters whenever Falcao came into view. Cole, usually so certain, was below his high standards in the first half in which Chelsea’s defenders resembled blue shirts on a washing line in a tempest. Everyone was flapping.
Falcao charged around, sensing vulnerability. He almost completed his hat-trick after 35 minutes. He accelerated one move, controlling the ball under pressure and then releasing the excellent Arda Turan. Adrian Lopez failed to turn in the cross. Falcao, lurking close by, threw himself at the loose ball, sending it against the post.
His third arrived just before the break, following a lightning break by Atletico form the wreckage of a Chelsea corner. Arda cleverly chose the ideal moment to release the ball across to Falcao. Again the control was instant. Again the finish was unstoppable.
At the break, after Atletico had departed to a standing ovation, the stadium announcer somehow managed to stop himself laughing when mentioning that Patrick Kluivert had been given the assignment of establishing who the man of the match was.
There was more. Miranda made it four, chipping the ball over Cech and in past a despairing Cahill. Chelsea gave their fans something to sing about, Cahill slamming in a loose ball, which prompted chants of “we’re going to win 5-4”.
Yet it was Atletico who came closest to scoring again. Felipe Luis raced 50 yards, being chased by Daniel Sturridge, who had been linked with a move to Liverpool. Atletico’s left-back just managed to find enough space to shoot but was denied by Cech.
The game finished as it began with Atletico’s marvelous fans singing Torres’ name for almost a minute. To nobody’s surprise, Falcao was then announced as man of the match.