LONDON — Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho paid tribute to Fernando Torres after the Spain striker made one goal and scored a late winner to earn a 2-1 victory over Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Sunday.
“He’s sharp, he’s powerful, he believes in his heart,” Mourinho told reporters after his side climbed to second in the table, two points behind leaders Arsenal, the team they meet in the fourth round of the Capital One (League) Cup tomorrow.
“Since I arrived, since the first day, he has worked very, very hard. Sometimes he was on the bench, sometimes he was not selected, sometimes I left him at home and every day it was the same — so credit to him.”
Torres has been in sparkling form of late and also struck twice in last week’s 0-3 victory at Schalke 04 in the Champions League.
A constant menace against City, he created the first goal when he tore past defender Gael Clichy on the right before crossing for German international Andre Schuerrle to execute a simple close range tap-in for his first Chelsea goal in the 33rd minute.
Sergio Aguero equalised with a fierce effort just after half-time, but Torres then grabbed his opening Premier League goal of the season in dramatic style when he pounced on a mix-up between defender Matija Nastasic and goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Mourinho praised Torres for keeping his head up despite missing an easy chance to score in the first half.
The Spaniard, who has often struggled since joining Chelsea from Liverpool in January 2011, evoked memories of his halcyon days at Anfield when he spun sharply on the edge of the box and curled a fizzing shot against the City woodwork in the opening half.
“It was a fantastic performance by him and even better because there was an easy chance missed and that makes it even more valuable because many times when a striker misses an easy chance he is affected for the rest of the game,” Mourinho said.
“That was the moment when he decided he would be the man-of-the-match. The fans were amazing and supported him a lot, they see the way he works for the team.”
Mourinho refused to take the credit for Torres’s improvement this season.
“We have done nothing with Fernando,” the Chelsea manager said. “It would be easy for me to say that but he deserves credit.
“We work with our methodology and we believe it improves players in terms of sharpness and speed.”