Samuel Eto’o showed the world why, at 32, he remains a big-game, big-money player.
The Chelsea striker scored a hat trick in his team’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United on Sunday, doubling his personal Premier-League goal tally from three to six in just under 80 minutes of work.
Eto’o benefited from a fortunate deflection when he opened the scoring in the 17th minute. His caromed off the leg of United midfielder Michael Carrick en route to the top corner of the goal.
Eto’o's two-goal outburst on either side of halftime sent the home fans into a state of ecstacy and effectively won the game.
Eto’o doubled Chelsea’s lead in the 45th minute when he slotted Gary Cahill‘s cross underneath United goalkeeper David de Gea from close range. Eto’o was unmarked on the play, which is somewhat surprising since he was the only striker on the field wearing Chelsea blue at that point.
Eto’o opportunistically made it 3-0 in the 49th minute when he hammered home Cahill’s saved header from a yard and a half out. It was a simply a case of being at the right place at the right time.
The win kept third-place Chelsea firmly in the title race. The Blues trail league-leaders Arsenal by two points and second-place Manchester City by one.
Meanwhile, the defeat ends United’s hopes of retaining the league title it won last season. The Red Devils trail Arsenal by 14 points with 16 games remaining in the season.
The trio of goals serve as Eto’o's first Premier League hat trick and confirmed his status as the king of Stamford Bridge — if only for one day. He also became the first Chelsea player to score a hat trick against United since Seamus O’Connell did it back in 1954 (Chelsea won the title that season).
Chelsea rescued Eto’o from the lucrative obscurity of Russian soccer (where Anzhi Makhachkala was paying him an estimated $28.8 million per year) when it signed him in August. The three-time UEFA Champions League winner took a pay cut to facilitate the move, saying that he had admired the Premier League from afar for a long time and relishing the chance to test himself in England’s top flight. It took over three months for Eto’o to reach peak form and fitness, and his goal output has been worryingly low — relative to both his own lofty standards and fans’ expectations.
Sunday’s hat-trick suggests Eto’o is finally feeling fine in West London.
“I’m very happy,” the Associated Press reports Eto’o said after the game. “My career wouldn’t have been as beautiful if I hadn’t gone to Chelsea.”
The African soccer icon will likely spend just one season as a Chelsea and Premier-League player. It’s expected that he will leave the club after his contract expires in May, lead Cameroon at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in June and July then join a Major League Soccer team (exactly which one is undetermined at this time) for an American adventure in the twilight of his career.
GIFs via Reddit