Benitez stands by mis-firing Torres

Congleton Guardian: Fernando Torres spurned a series of chances on Thursday night Fernando Torres spurned a series of chances on Thursday night

Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez defended misfiring striker Fernando Torres after his side squeezed into the last-16 of the Europa League.

Substitute Eden Hazard saved the Blues from extra time with a stunning last-gasp strike to snatch a 1-1 draw that was enough to eventually see off Sparta Prague's persistence over the two legs. It could have been far easier for Chelsea, however, but for Torres who wasted at least four clear-cut chances on a night Chelsea dominated possession.

"He didn't play badly tonight," Benitez said. "You can analyse a striker for the number of goals he scores. Maybe you're right. But he did a great job for the team tonight."

He went on: "It's not easy against a team playing deep, but he was winning the ball in the air, bringing options for those around him.

"I thought he was playing well. I disagree he was playing badly. But of course we want him to take the chances that come his way.

"If he continues working like today and playing like he did today, he will score goals. I'm convinced about that."

Benitez did concede Torres' poor form in front of goal - which has returned following the arrival of Demba Ba in the transfer window - was a frustration.

But he pointed to the fact Torres was finding himself in dangerous positions as reason for his optimism.

"We could be talking about Fernando not scoring goals, and he had four chances. But he had four chances," he said. "Let's turn it into a positive. I've seen him in games not having these chances because he's not in the right position.

"Today the goalkeeper stopped him and he missed some. It wasn't the situation where the striker disappeared. Are we disappointed he didn't score? Yes, we are. But he was still giving his all to the team."

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