Fernando Torres produced a striker’s masterclass to score twice as Liverpool inflicted only a second defeat of the season on Premier League leaders Chelsea.Torres has a liking for playing the Londoners at Anfield, as his six goals in five matches against them at home shows.Chelsea were heavily linked with a summer bid for Torres but it never materialised and manager Carlo Ancelotti said he did not need to buy the striker as he was satisfied with his own forwards.
However, Torres was more than happy to give a display of his quality to the Blues boss, whose side had conceded only three goals in 10 league games prior to kick-off.
It was always likely the result would come down to who took their chances and with Didier Drogba left on the bench until the second half, Torres was given a head start.
He did not need a second invitation and in addition to his two expertly-taken first-half goals he was a constant threat to the Chelsea defence
Torres has been short of form this season but he has always been able to produce a performance against Chelsea at Anfield over the years and this was no different.
It took just 11 minutes for him to reopen old wounds with a classic piece of finishing courtesy of a cross from Dirk Kuyt, making a welcome return after a month’s absence with an ankle injury, on the left.
The Dutchman chipped a pass over the head of John Terry and Torres took one touch before firing past Petr Cech.
Having looked short of confidence this season the 26-year-old appeared to spring to life, immediately going on a short run and firing wide.
Possession was fairly even but Liverpool created the best chances, having a penalty shout dismissed when Terry’s clearance bounced up on to Yury Zhirkov’s arm from which Raul Meireles shot at Cech.
Torres did not give the goalkeeper any such chance with his second just before half-time with a strike even better than his opener and reminiscent of his first ever goal for the club – also against Chelsea.
Meireles dispossessed Ashley Cole in the centre of the pitch and rolled the ball out to the Spaniard on the left of the penalty area.
Cutting inside he curled a shot around Branislav Ivanovic and inside Terry and the far post.
It was a fitting end to undoubtedly Liverpool’s best first half of the season, which was as much down to excellent organisation at the back as Torres’ potency up front.
With Jamie Carragher, restored to centre-back, barking the orders the hosts limited Chelsea to one shot on target – and that a weak Salomon Kalou header straight at Jose Reina.
Drogba’s arrival for the start of the second half was inevitable but the Ivory Coast international’s first shooting opportunity saw him curl a 30-yard free-kick well wide.
Ramires headed over and Zhirkov’s shot was turned around the post by Reina, who also produced a brilliant close-range stop to deny Florent Malouda.
Having got themselves into a winning position it was now a question of holding on to it for Liverpool as Chelsea ramped up the pressure.
Torres may be paid to score goals but the sight of him hoofing the ball into the upper tier of the Centenary Stand was testament to the determination of everyone to hang on at all costs.
Kuyt almost wrapped things up 15 minutes from time only for Cech’s outstretched leg to divert the ball wide.
Chelsea knew it was not to be their day when Nicolas Anelka’s shot squeezed under Reina, whose slight touch deflected the ball up on to the bar and then Carragher cleared from the lurking Drogba two yards out.
The win moved Liverpool into ninth, the first time they have been in the top half since the opening weekend of the season, after three successive Barclays Premier League victories.
They are still not in a position to challenge Chelsea at the top of the table – where they still have a two-point lead over Manchester United – but they proved, on their day and with Torres on form, they remain a match for any side.
It seems a corner has now been turned in Roy Hodgson’s reign, and with matches to come against Wigan, Stoke and West Ham there is a real chance for them to restore some of the damage done by their poor start to the season.