Benitez anticipates Ba-Torres double act
Rafael Benitez sees no reason why strikers Demba Ba and Fernando Torres cannot play together after Ba scored two debut goals as Chelsea crushed Southampton 5-1 in the FA Cup.
With Torres watching on from the bench at St Mary’s on Saturday, Senegal international Ba took just 35 minutes to score his first Chelsea goal — a feat that took the Spaniard 14 games and two and a half months.
“They could play together,” said Benitez.
“Ba was playing with (Newcastle United striker Papiss) Cisse last month, so he can play in a two because he is a clever player, but it depends on the players and the game.
“I prefer this problem of having two strikers than having to be careful just with one.
“It is important for the team to have these different options. They are good players and they can compete, or maybe we can manage them together — it depends on the games.”
Ba scored in each half, adding to goals from Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanovic and a late penalty from Frank Lampard, to round off a superb performance in which he fitted seamlessly into the Blues’ forward line.
“It is always important for a striker to score goals but, more than the goals, it was the contribution for the team, the movement and the understanding of what we wanted to do that pleased me,” said Benitez.
“He was really good and everything he did pleased me. He was very clever.”
Lampard’s goal, after he came off the bench in the second half, was his 193rd for Chelsea and took him level with Kerry Dixon in second place in the club’s all-time scoring charts.
He needs just 10 more to overhaul Bobby Tambling at the top and Benitez, who insisted he did not know whether Chelsea had spoken to the veteran’s agent about renewing his contract at the end of the season, wants him to break the record.
“It is a great achievement for him to go equal second and, hopefully, he can score a lot of goals until the end of the season and go top,” he said.
“I know they have been some conversations but I do not know if conversations (about contracts) have taken place as I wasn’t there.”
Southampton were easily beaten in the end despite a strong start in which Jay Rodriguez put them ahead.
But defeat leaves the Saints free to concentrate on Premier League survival, with a crunch game at fellow relegation candidates Aston Villa coming up next Saturday.
“With the team we put out, we wanted to give ourselves an option to go through, but that hasn’t materialised,” said manager Nigel Adkins.
“What we have now is a week’s opportunity to get ourselves ready for the league campaign.
“I thought we started the game brightly, scored a very good goal through Jay Rodriquez, and it was a good game to watch in the first half.
“But the killer blow came before half-time with their goal and then, in the second half, they demonstrated the good players they have got in the team. I thought they were very good in the second half.”
Rodriguez put Southampton ahead when he found space behind Gary Cahill to latch onto Jason Puncheon’s superb pass and slot under Ross Turnball.
But from that moment on, it was all Chelsea. Ba equalised following a flowing move that involved Moses, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, and then Moses rifled them ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Ivanovic headed home Mata’s cross and Ba slid in to convert Hazard’s pass before Lampard converted a penalty he earned himself to round off the scoring.