That giant sigh of relief you might have heard coming from across the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday probably came from Spanish international striker Fernando Torres, who hadn't done much striking for Chelsea recently, at least not until Sunday.
Torres, who had failed to score during an amazing 25-hour, 41-minute scoring drought since the end of October, finally had cause for a personal goal celebration in the Blues' 5-2 win over Leicester City in the English F.A. Cup quarterfinal.
After connecting in the 67th minute, Torres did not have to wait even 25 minutes for his next goal as he headed another home in the 85th minute. Incredibly, it was Torres' first goals since he had a brace against Genk in the UEFA Champions League on Oct. 19.
Despite his brace, Torres certainly has not given the English Premier League side any bang for its buck. He has scored only six goals this season and only seven in 52 appearances since joining the team from Liverpool for $80 million in January, 2011.
“I needed those goals. I’ve been working so hard to get them,” Torres told reporters. “Maybe the job of a striker is to score goals and if you don’t do it people think you’re playing badly. But the support has been here and I feel the confidence of the manager now. We have some important games coming.”
After missing two earlier chances, Torres made life easier for himself in the 67th minute as he sent Raul Meireles pass into the net past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for a 3-0lead. He headed in a Meireles’ corner kick some 18 minutes later.
Needless to say, coach Roberto Di Matteo, who has won four consecutive matches since taking over for the fired Andre Villas-Boas, was quite happy for Torres because he needs a confident striker for Chelsea's stretch run.
“I thought Fernando had a terrific game, he fought very hard for the team and managed to score a couple of goals too," he said.
"It’s wonderful for him. “I have a lot of belief in him and the other players. He works so hard, and in life if you do that you will get rewarded for it.”
As it turned out, this weekend was a goal-scoring bonanza for some of the top Latino players around as Javier Hernandez struck for a brace, as did Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo, who increased his total to 18 goals and Chilean Mauricio Pinilla had a hat trick.
Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia
Chicharito and his Manchester United teammates took out their frustrations on host Wolverhampton Wolvers after being eliminated from Europa Cup. Hernandez struck for a brace during a five-minute span early in the second half as United registered a rousing 5-0 triumph in the EPL.
The Mexican international scored in the 56th and 61st minutes to boost the visitors into a five-goal lead that helped them hold onto their fifth consecutive league victory. MU enjoys a four-point lead over rival Manchester City, which has a game in hand.
United, which grabbed a 1-0 lead on Jonny Evans' first goal for the club in the 21st minute, was helped by the fact that Wolverhampton defender Ronald Zubar was given his marching orders for accruing his second yellow card in the 21st minute.
Before the first half was completed, Ecuadorean Valencia and Danny Welbeck had found the back of the net. Hernandez took center stage in the second half as he scored a header off Da Silva's chip into the penalty area in the 56th minute. Valencia and Welbeck combined to set up the Mexican striker five minutes later.
"The finish for the second one was fantastic from Valencia," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "Antonio is back in the team and his form was fantastic today.
"He made one for Danny Welbeck which killed the match really."
Luis Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez
Suarez, a Uruguayan, scored the lone goal of Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Stoke City to propel his side into the F.A. Cup semifinals. Suarez exchanged passes with Rodriguez, an Argentine, some 25 yards from the goal before beating goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Franco Di Santo
Di Santo, an Argentine, missed several scoring opportunities, which hurt Wigan in its 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. A win would have taken Wigan out of the EPL relegation zone. The striker could have scored in the opening minute, but he could not control his shot after Gary Caldwell's free kick. Several minutes later, he failed to get a decent shot off against goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The Argentine sent a cross to Papiss Demba Cisse, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win for Newcastle United over Norwich City to keep its hopes alive of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
The Argentine superstar scored yet again for Barcelona. Messi found the back of the net for the sixth successive match as Barca registered a 2-0 triumph at Sevilla. Spanish international Xavi Hernandez started the scoring by converting a free kick in the 18th minute. Some eight minutes later, Messi took a pass from Andres Iniesta eight minutes later, slipped the ball through Emir Spahic’s legs and chipped goalkeeper Andres Palop. For the record, Messi has 31 league goals this season -- one behind Cristiano Ronaldo -- and 51st in all competitions. It also was the 150th La Liga goal of his career. Messi needs four scores to equalize Cesar Rodriguez’s Barca's career record of 235. Barcelona (19-2-6) closed within eight points of Real Madrid (23-2-2), which was tied by Malaga, on Santi Cazorla’s injury- time goal, 1-1.
The Colombian struck for his 17th goal of the season in Atheltic Madrid's 2-1 defeat to 10-man Mallorca as Argentine coach Diego Simeone suffered only his second loss since taking over the coaching reins in January. After Mallorca scored two goals, Falcao cut the deficit in half in the 66th minute.
The Mexican international midfielder tallied his first goal in two months to start Deportivo de la Coruna to a 3-0 victory over Alcoyano in he Second Division. Valeron collected the ball at midfield and sent a volley to the left flank to an onrushing Guardado, who fired his ninth goal past goalkeeper Dorronsoro to the left post. Guardado dedicated his ninth goal to teammate Jesus Vazquez. His last goal was against Xerez .
Depending on your vantage point, Cavani, a Uruguayan, was either the hero or the goat for Napoli in its 2-2 draw with 10-man Udinese. On the bright side, he connected for a brace in the 81st and 85th minutes to help Napoli rally for a tie. But he missed a penalty kick in the 73rd minute that could have been a vital goal for Napoli after Udinese defender Maurizio Domizzi was red-carded for a handball.
The Chilean striker recorded a hat trick as Cagliari registered a 3-0 win over nine-man Cesena to snap a three-game losing streak in its first match since Massimo Ficcadenti returned as manager. Pinilla began his one-man show by scoring from point-blank range in the 14th minute before he added penalty kicks in the 45th and 56th minutes. He has scored seven goals for Cagliari since his transfer from Palermo in January.
Raul, Jefferson Farfan
Raul, a former Spanish international, and Farfan, a Peruvian, tallied in Schalke's 4-1 rout of host Kaiserslautern. The win allowed Schalke to remain in the race for a spot in the Champions League next season. Farfan, who had a free kick denied for a goal by goalkeeper Tobias Sippel earlier in the match, set up Raul in the 51st minute before finding the range himself after a give-and-go with Lewis Holtby in the 81st minute.
After saving Ajaccio in the final seconds a couple of times this season, it was Ochoa's turn to get saved by his teammates in the waning seconds in a 1-1 tie with Bordeaux in French Ligue 1 action. Defender Yoann Poulard did them the favor, heading home the qualizer two minutes into injury time. The tie boosted Bordeaux into eighth place, four points behind fifth-place Lyon. Ajaccio is in 16th place, one of four teams with 30 points apiece, three points above the relegation zone. Ochoa, Mexico's No. 1 international goalkeeper, made one vital save. First, he had a close call when Jaroslav Plasil blasted a volley off the crossbar in the 51st minute. Minutes later, Ochoa made a key stop on Benoît Trémoulinas.
Oscar Cardozo, Nicolas Gaitan
The combination of the Paraguayan and Argentine were too much for Beira Mar in second-place Benfica's 3-1 victory. Cardozo scored in the 26th and 48th minutes to boost him to a league-best 18 goals and he assisted Gaitan on his tally.
The Argentine striker scored the first goal off a breakaway in the 39th minute and Luis Gil put away a rebound of Espindola's shot that was saved by goalkeeper Ryan Meara in the 58th minute in Real Salt Lake's 2-0 home win over the New York Red Bulls. Espindola has scored five goals in six games vs. the Red Bulls.
Blas Perez, Carlos Rodriguez
So far so very good for the Panamanian striker, who has starred for FC Dallas. After his first two appearances, Perez has scored one goal and assisted on two others. His first Major League Soccer goal was scored in Dallas' 1-1 draw at FC Dallas Stadium. Perez's goal came in the 22nd minute, when fellow Panamanian Carlos Rodriguez sent a pass ahead of the striker into the center of the penalty area. Perez could not get on the end of the cross but the ball skipped through the area and found Bryan Leyva at the back post. Leyva forced goalkeeper Troy Perkins to make a diving save to his right side. The rebound fell at the feet of Perez, who finished for a 1-0 advantage.
Jaime Castrillion, Lionard Pajoy
A pair of Colombians played vital roles for both sides in the Colorado Rapids' 2-1 win at the Philadelphia Union. Castrillon scored in the 56th minute to boost the visitors to a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute while Pajoy pulled one back for Philly in the 67th minute. Omar Cummings played in a cross that slipped through the hands of a leaping goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Colorado Castrillon tapped in the loose ball at the back post for a 1-0 lead. After the Rapids added another goal, second-half substitute Roger Torres gathered a cleared corner kick and sent a cross into the penalty area. Pajoy met the ball outside the six-yard box and sent a diving header under goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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