London: Fernando Torres scored twice in a classy individual display as Chelsea equalled their biggest-ever win in the Champions League by thrashing Belgian strugglers Genk 5-0 on Wednesday, cementing their place at the top of Group E.
The Spain striker looked back to his confident best in a one-sided match at Stamford Bridge, adding to Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles` early strike with well-taken goals in the 11th and 27th minutes to double his tally for the season in all competitions.
Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic`s 42nd-minute header sent the English club into the break 4-0 ahead but they couldn`t maintain the pace and verve of their first-half masterclass, substitute Salomon Kalou grabbing the only goal of the second half after Torres was denied his hat-trick by Genk goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles` point-blank save.
The convincing victory over the group`s bottom team kept Andre Villas-Boas` unbeaten side a point clear of Bayer Leverkusen after three games. Leverkusen fought back to beat Valencia 2-1. Andre Schuerrle and Sidney Sam scored second-half goals to wipe out Jonas` strike for Valencia.
With a return match in Genk to come in two weeks` time, another win in Belgium could clinch Chelsea a top-two finish with a couple of matches remaining.
"I`m very happy with the performance, not only the way we played but the commitment of the team in a game that everyone expected us to win," Villas-Boas said. "Surprises are always round the corner in these games but we were able to keep our concentration and focus."
Torres, currently in the middle of a three-match domestic suspension, couldn`t have wished for an easier return to the action against a beleaguered visiting side languishing in ninth place in the 16-team Belgian league and beset with injuries in defence.
In the first half especially, Torres oozed confidence, putting a gilt-edged early miss in the seventh minute behind him to give Genk a torrid time with his pace and movement in arguably his best game in a Chelsea shirt.
He took both his goals expertly, curling home a shot from just inside the area after running onto a pass by Frank Lampard and then heading in a cross by the excellent Meireles in the 27th.
"It was never a question about (finding) his form," Villas-Boas said of Torres, who scored just one goal in 17 games for Chelsea last season after his 50 million Pounds move from Liverpool in January.
"It`s important for a player to feel confident and I think he is feeling confident in his abilities. He`s been doing his work for the team but I think he`s always been in form."
"You could see his hunger to be on the pitch and to score goals. It was just unlucky he couldn`t get the third."
Making a mockery of the adage that there are no easy games in Europe, the hosts cut through Genk at will early on, setting up their biggest home win in the competition.
Meireles was at the heart of many of their best moves and it was the Portugal playmaker who opened the scoring in the eighth minute, taking advantage of the masses of space afforded to him by collecting the ball 35 yards out, advancing forward and lashing a low drive into the bottom corner.
"In Belgium, teams would miss these kinds of chances but not at this level," Genk coach Mario Been said.
Meireles` first goal for Chelsea since his transfer-deadline day move from Liverpool was quickly followed by Torres` brace, his maiden Champions League goals for the club and his first in the competition for 2-and-a-half years.
When Ivanovic rose above opposite number Abel Masuero to plant home a header from Florent Malouda`s floated free kick, Genk - wearing a striking magenta strip - could easily have given up but it was to the visitors` credit that they managed to stem the tide until the 72nd minute.
Kalou, on as a substitute for Lampard four minutes earlier, bundled the ball home from six yards after Torres saw his close-range attempt from Jose Bosingwa`s low cross superbly saved by Koteles.
Another goal would have seen Chelsea surpass their 5-0 win in Galatasaray in 1999 but Genk, who faced 28 attempts on goal in total, held firm.
Villas-Boas predicted a much tougher return match in Belgium.
"I know the game in Genk will be completely different because the environment will be different with their fans," the Portuguese coach said.