Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Riise
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
Torres 8’ 61’ 81’
Despite rumors of Torres being sick, the lone changes were Arbeloa and Riise coming in for Hyypia and Aurelio. And after that performance, it’s hard to believe Torres’ health was ever in doubt.
That would be his third hat-trick of the season, and he’s now up to 24 goals on the season (18 in the Prem), with 12 in his last 11 matches. Two of those hatters have come in the last two at Anfield, where a player hasn’t gotten back-to-back hat-tricks since 1946 (although Rush did get two in a row against Everton and Coventry in 1982). It’s the most goals he’s ever scored in a season, and unlike at Atletico, none of them have come on penalties.
The highest compliment I can pay, which I’ve said of Mascherano this season, is that it’s getting to the point where there’s no other player I’d rather have in his position. And it’s easy to forget that Torres, like Mascherano, is still only 23 years old.
The first came in eight minutes in, seconds after Torres put a header over the bar, when Kuyt’s cross found its way through (aided by a deflection) for a beautiful volley that gave Green no chance.
But instead of opening the game up, it got scrappier following the goal. West Ham nearly equalized in the 13th minute when Boa Morte, through on goal, rounded Reina, only for Arbeloa to get back to clear. But other than that, Liverpool continued to be the better side, with far more possession and a heap of corners and free kicks. But they were wasteful from those set plays, and the home side only forced one save out of Green for the rest of the half, stopping Gerrard’s close range shot from Babel’s cross, with Skrtel’s header over the bar the only other opportunity of note.
Mindful of the matches where Liverpool’s had a lead and ended with a draw, the team came out intent on finding another goal, which they got a third of the way through the half. Following yet another corner, Kuyt danced free for room to cross, and Torres’ perfectly placed header left Green flat footed. After nearly completing his hat-trick with a diving header that rebounded off the post in the 66th minute, Torres’ control left Lucas Neill for dead in the 81st, and he was able to fire past Green from an acute angle.
Gerrard added gloss two minutes later with his 18th of the season, delivering a trademark belter after a mistake gave him the ball in West Ham’s half, with Alonso and Crouch’s runs giving him the space to shoot. 4-0 was a deserved result; I don’t think West Ham got a shot off in the entire second half.
I’ve few complaints with any in the squad, but some players merit particular mention (outside of Torres, naturally). Once again, Skrtel’s solid at the back in both tackling and positioning, and shows he can bring the ball out of defense. Alonso’s returning to his usual self, spraying passes around the pitch and pulling the strings, and the play of Masch and Xabi’s allowed Gerrard a more attacking role. Kuyt’s also adapting well, with 2 assists and another good game on the right. And both Arbeloa and Riise (one of Riise’s better all-around performances) did well to support the attack all night long.
Continued consistency in both the team and formation has certainly aided this recent run. The team’s scoring goals (10 in the last three), having started the same four attackers (Torres, Kuyt, Babel, Gerrard) in the last four games, and Liverpool’s kept their first clean sheet since the Inter match.
Now Liverpool’s won the game-in-hand, and is back in fourth on goal difference. So far, the team’s done what’s necessary since going out of the FA Cup and getting back to the form that raised hopes so high early in the season, no matter the recent “developments” off the pitch. Now, it’s Newcastle on Saturday before the return leg at Inter next Tuesday, and Liverpool must build on this platform they've given themselves.