That was as surreal as it was exceptional. A match of such class, such splendor, that many of us, including one Fernando Torres, were likely wondering who this team was that we were watching. As I asked via Twitter after 20 sensational first-half minutes had resulted in a trio of fine goals:
Is this real life?
Turn out, it was. Lovely.
Sure, we have been in wonderful form over the past two months. Roberto Di Matteo's transformation of this unit, this club for that matter, has been incredibly fun - and incredibly compelling - to watch.1 Still, it hasn't all been rosy. Results have largely been ground out, with our vintage ironclad blue-collar ethos coming to rule all.2 We've been effective, sure, but for those eyeing more flowing football (i.e. Roman), we haven't exactly reached those lofty heights.
Here, however, the lads opted for the sublime and it was, well, sublime. As it turns out, it's far easier to do a Barca against teams other than Barca. Then again, we didn't really muck about with passing it a billion times. We just moved it quickly, incisively and beautifully. Some of the buildup play on display was gorgeous. Most of it ran through Juan Mata, who, after being stripped of his creativeness in a collective sacrifice for the team against Barcelona, took hold of our attacking reins and played puppet master to brilliant effect.
It was almost too easy, really. The game, at times, resembled some of the early scenes from The Karate Kid, 3 with our boys taking on the role of the Cobra Kai and QPR obviously looking like Daniel LaRusso throwing his bike in the trash bin after getting his ass pushed down a hill. No, I don't condone bullying of any kind.
This would obviously make Torres, principal among the bullies, John Lawrence. Nando produced perhaps his best display in a Chelsea shirt - his best at least in terms of productivity - against QPR. The hat trick, his first since September 2009, was well taken. He was a menace throughout the contest. He could have had four or five. And, as we have come to expect, he worked extremely hard. But maybe the most crucial aspect of this performance was in his demeanor. I can't speak for Torres, and I wasn't on the pitch or in the locker room with him (obviously), but to me it looked like there wasn't any fear there. There was no hesitation. It was all reaction.
The biggest compliment I can pay the man is that, as he broke free for what would be his third goal, I knew he was going to score. How many times have we been able to say that during his time at the club? You can count it on one finger, I think. And I expected him to bury the subsequent chances he created as well. I'm not suggesting Torres is back (it's going to take a hell of a lot more than the last week to convince me of that), but I do believe he's beginning to believe in himself again - and that should be a scary thought for opposing clubs.
What else? You just knew John Terry was going to score. Speaking of which, gotta condemn those idiots who booed Anton Ferdinand at every turn. What has he done to deserve that? More than that, what does directing abuse toward him accomplish? All it really does is make Chelsea as a whole look poor. Oh, did I mention QPR were embarrassingly bad? They were almost as bad as those away kits - but not quite. They need to put in a call to Commodore (one of our former sponsors) about slapping a joystick logo on those things.
We're now only one point behind both Tottenham and Newcastle. We have a chance to leapfrog Newcastle on Wednesday when we welcome the Toon to Stamford Bridge. Spurs, meanwhile, must travel to the Reebok to take on a Bolton side that is not only fighting for its Premier League life but will also be playing in front of Fabrice Muamba. Tell me that won't spike motivation levels for Owen Coyle's men. Suddenly it looks like we have a shot at fourth. Fancy me surprised.
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Sam Hutchinson. How amazing was it to see Hutch on the field? In a competitive fixture? From retirement in August 2010 to Premier League appearance in April 2012 - that's some journey, a truly inspiring one at that. I love this kid.
1. For Roman Abramovich, present on Saturday unlike during our Spanish historics in midweek, the writing is indeed on the wall. Hell, even he, along with the five-star entourage, was as giddy as a schoolboy (Last Crusade reference, bomb) watching Nando ramp up the Delorean to 88. Give the man the job. Permanently. ↩
2. Not that I'm against that. Quite the opposite actually, as you well know. ↩
3. The original 1984 classic with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Not that Jaden Smith bullshit. ↩