LONDON: Fernando Torres saved holders Chelsea from FA Cup humiliation with the late equalizer that secured a 2-2 fourth-round draw at League One Brentford on Sunday.
Four days after losing the League Cup semi-final to Swansea City, Torres and his team-mates seemed set for more cup misery when Harry Forrester converted a 73rd-minute penalty to restore Brentford’s lead after Oscar had canceled out Marcello Trotta’s opener.
But the newly shorn Torres, anonymous for much of the game, finally burst into life with an 83rd-minute finish after combining with substitute Demba Ba to earn the Premier League giants a replay.
The result was slightly harsh on Brentford, who were on top for long periods, but spared Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez from another painful inquest.
Only six miles separate the compact Griffin Park and Stamford Bridge, but this was the first competitive meeting between the two clubs in 63 years, reinforcing the gulf in status between the two teams.
There was little evidence of that gap in the opening 45 minutes, however, when the hosts dominated and deservedly reached half-time ahead.
Benitez had complained of a lack of depth in his squad in the build-up to this game but was still able to recall Fernando Torres and John Terry in an effort to freshen up the side following their elimination by Swansea.
But the changes did nothing to strengthen the European champions and they struggled to settle in the face of steady home pressure.
Trotta provided an early warning of his threat when he capped a Brentford break with a left-foot shot that flew wide of Ross Turnbull’s right-hand upright.
But moments later the home side were presented with another clear opportunity after an appalling mix-up between Terry and Turnbull that summed up Chelsea’s disarray.
Turnbull’s poor clearance failed to find safety and when the ball was headed back toward the Chelsea penalty area, Terry misdirected a back-pass that Turnbull had no option but to collect with his hands under pressure from Clayton Donaldson.
Forrester fired over from the resulting free kick but the warning signs were there for the visitors and reinforced when Forrester caught Branislav Ivanovic in possession in a dangerous area mid-way through the half.
On that occasion Benitez’s side escaped, but they were less fortunate three minutes before the break when Frank Lampard was dispossessed by Adam Forshaw deep in his own half.
The ball broke free for Forrester, whose right-foot shot was parried by Turnbull into the path of Trotta, who finished with a clinical half-volley.
Benitez introduced Juan Mata for the ineffective Marko Marin at half-time and the change inspired a recovery that yielded Oscar’s equalizer, the Brazilian finishing superbly with the outside of his right boot after eluding four defenders.
The visitors were in the ascendancy and appeared destined to press on and win the game before Turnbull again made an error of judgment after a mistake by a team-mate.
Ramires’ misplaced pass allowed Donaldson to release substitute Tom Adeyemi, who burst into the Chelsea area and went down under the challenge of the keeper.
Forrester finished calmly from the penalty spot and Chelsea were again in need of response.
It came seven minutes from time when the much-criticized Torres curled a first-time shot into the top corner after exchanging passes with Ba.
Chelsea might even have won it at the death, but Harlee Dean escaped despite a cross from Mata appearing to hit his hand inside the Brentford area.