Arbeloa Carragher Agger Insua
Benayoun Alonso Mascherano Riera
Torres 5’ 33’
That’s an acceptable response to Wednesday. It looked like it’d be a 2-0 hammering for the majority, but two more in the last ten minutes made the scoreline representative of the match.
I am running out of ways to praise Fernando Torres. Simply stating that he’s the best #9 in the business is insufficient. Acknowledging that when he’s on song he’s an absolute artist isn’t good enough either. That boy is special. And thanks to his early strike, which is leading candidate for goal of the season, this game was never in doubt.
No matter how many words I use, I’ll never be able to do the opener justice. Carragher found Torres over the top, and back to goal, he controlled brilliantly with his chest, directing it to the right to take it away from Nelsen. And although it looked like the touch took him too far from goal, he hit it beautifully, looping a shot over Robinson and inside the far post. Simply outstanding, and he made it look so easy.
Liverpool could have been 3-0 up before 30 minutes were off the clock, but they had to settle for 2-0 at halftime. With Christophe Samba as a lone striker, Blackburn had little relief from the pressure, with clearances hoofed forward returning quickly.
In the 16th minute, a break nearly cut through Blackburn like butter, as Kuyt stormed up the left, and tried to find Mascherano running through the middle. The pass was slightly behind, but Masch controlled (and stayed up despite a challenge on his ankles), only he couldn’t open his body enough to direct it either side of Robinson. And then Torres skied the follow up. The chance in the 27th was just as wasteful – Kuyt heading directly at Robinson from four yards out despite an inch-perfect cross from Insua and a free jump.
However, that man Torres got the second six minutes later. Alonso put a free kick into a dangerous area, and the striker rose highest while holding off 6’5” Samba. From there, Liverpool were on cruise control, content with shots from distance and chances on the break. The finishing wasn't the best, especially from Kuyt and Riera, but Blackburn didn’t look like upsetting the balance – it took until the 77th minute for them to threaten, when Samba slipped in the box while shooting, sending his strike straight at Reina. He should have been flagged offside anyway.
And I reckon that scare prompted a Liverpool response. Robinson had to save Masch’s point-blank effort after El Zhar couldn't get a shot off, and Riera’s header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line. But just two minutes later, Agger got the return he deserved with a carbon copy of his first goal for the club, striding forward and smacking an unstoppable shot from 35 yards – another strike that’ll show up on goal-of-the-season lists. Ngog, on for Kuyt in the 84th, iced the cake with his second league goal after Carra’s deep cross and Lucas’ header into the danger area.
That’s exactly what Liverpool needed, and credit to manager and players for responding in the right manner. Liverpool were up for it, knew they would have to break down a side determined to defend, and got right down to business. Torres’ brilliance made 11 men behind the ball a moot point, and from there, Liverpool smothered Blackburn into oblivion.
I have to highlight Mascherano’s contribution. Missing for the last two matches, he returns and Liverpool delivers another four-goal performance. He kept running for 90 minutes, didn’t give Blackburn a moment’s peace when anyone in blue and white was on the ball, and was unlucky not to notch a goal.
Insua was also excellent today. Aurelio is the best left back at the club, and can conjure awesome plays – think the free kick against United and setting up Torres’ goal at Inter last year – but Insua often seems to mesh better in the team. Riera showed flashes of the form he hit against Villa, and I doubt it’s coincidental. I’m tempted to update this post about Liverpool’s left, but I think I’ll wait until the end of the season. And to top it all off, we got Danny Agger back, hard as nails and looking to get forward. I try not to let my personal biases blind me (Agger and Insua are two of my absolute favorite players), but I adore when Agger’s in the team.
Liverpool didn’t get the wanted result in the Champions League. It’ll be tough to rectify on Tuesday, but on the basis of this performance, there’s always the possibility. But more important is keeping pace in the league, which they did with aplomb today.