LONDON (Reuters) – Much-maligned striker Fernando Torres rescued FA Cup holders Chelsea from an ignominious fourth-round exit after his 83rd-minute equaliser salvaged a 2-2 draw at third tier Brentford on Sunday.
The Spaniard swept home to secure a replay as Chelsea, who missed out on one Wembley appearance after losing over two legs to Swansea City in the Capital One (League) Cup semi-finals, twice needed to come from behind at Griffin Park.
"I was pleased with the reaction of the players, we were much better in the second half," Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez told reporters.
"We knew what Brentford were capable of and they did it well, so credit to them, but we need to do our job in the replay.
"It’s important to do well in every competition, the FA Cup is massive but we also need to finish in the top four."
After becoming the first Champions League holders to exit at the group stage and 11 points off top spot in the Premier League, Chelsea’s path to silverware this season rests with the Europa League or with the FA Cup, a trophy they have lifted in four of the last six seasons.
Torres, a pale shadow of the striker that Chelsea paid a British transfer record fee of 50 million pounds for in 2011, kept the Cup holders in the hat for the fifth-round draw when he took a pass from substitute Demba Ba and beat goalkeeper Simon Moore with a precise finish.
Brentford, pushing for promotion to the second tier of English football and managed by former Manchester City striker Uwe Rosler, had harried their more illustrious London rivals and denied them space for much of an enthralling game.
Sharper to the ball in the opening period, they led late in the first half when Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull, deputising for the rested Petr Cech, could only parry a shot into the path of Marcello Trotta and the on-loan Italian striker lashed in.
Chelsea were vastly improved after the break and equalised on 55 minutes when a clearance fell to Oscar on edge of box and with his back to goal, the Brazilian turned and found space inside the area to prod a right foot shot home.
The Premier League side were on top at this stage but Brentford did not buckle and appeared to be on their way to one of the biggest ever shocks in the competition when Turnbull sent Tom Adeyemi sprawling in the penalty area.
Harry Forrester coolly slotted in the spot kick on 73 minutes to give Brentford a 2-1 lead but Torres, inconsistent and forlorn for much of the season, was to have the final word to force a replay at Stamford Bridge.
In later games, Championship (second division) Leeds United were hosting Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road in a 2:00 p.m. kickoff before third tier Oldham Athletic take on Liverpool at 4:00 p.m.
The draw for the fifth round is made at 5:45 p.m.
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