Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Torres 89’ 90+4’
Outstanding. I never thought I’d be thanking Mike Riley for a Liverpool victory.
But we’re really thanking Fernando Torres. Yes, I’ll get it out of the way up top. That was never, ever a red card on Frank Lampard. But I also remember a penalty that never was which cost Liverpool two points last season. That’s why I’m a firm believer in karma.
And if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Fernando Torres, it could have easily stayed 0-0. For 29 minutes with a man advantage, it looked exactly like the recent frustrating draws. And then Torres made his presence felt and made sure the better team won. Looks like someone might be finding his feet after injury – and coupled with today’s win, that’s more than enough to restore some of the faith lost in the last few weeks.
For 60 minutes, even with the lack of goals, you couldn’t help but be pleased with the performance. Had Liverpool not had so many draws of late, the 0-0 would have almost been satisfying. Both defenses were dominant, with the four centerbacks easily the players of the game, and Carragher and Alex a further step ahead of the pack.
But Liverpool was in control for the most part, and although chances were again hard to come by, the home side had all the best. Alonso and Mascherano tested Cech, who looked tentative, early on, before Alex had to spectacularly block Torres’ shot off the turn and Ashley Cole almost turned the rebound from Riera’s shot into his own net. Meanwhile, Chelsea didn’t get a shot on target all half as Liverpool’s defense snuffed everything out and Alonso and Mascherano – Alonso, who was again fantastic, especially – set the pace in midfield. Had Kuyt and Riera delivered a better end product, Liverpool probably would have been a goal to the good before the break.
And the second half started similarly, with Liverpool even more dominant in possession. Alex again blocked a Torres shot on target before Mike Riley made himself the main talking point. Alonso and Lampard went for the same ball, with Lampard getting there first, albeit with studs high. If anything, it’s probably a foul by Alonso, but Riley somehow comes up with a red card for Frankie. Lampard barely argued; he just looked confused. As did everyone else.
You can’t throw away gifts like that. Chelsea didn’t at Anfield last season, and for nearly half an hour, it looked like Liverpool would. The pressure, and chances, came non-stop. Alex and Terry were superb, and Chelsea were content to sit back and see out a goalless draw. Had Liverpool not been able to take advantage of the extra man, the worrying, complaining, and second-guessing would have continued. Because it looked again like the lack of end product would cost Liverpool – and Benitez had even made attacking substitutions, bringing on Benayoun for Riera and Babel for Mascherano.
But Fernando Torres again makes all the difference, and Liverpool responded with the late heroics we’d been waiting for. In the 89th minute, the home side again poured forward, Aurelio curled in yet another cross from the left, and Torres made a beautiful run to beat Alex at the near post, glancing his header past Cech. Finally. Thank you.
Chelsea, with 0-2 no different than 0-1, tried to steal an equalizer by actually attacking with more than two players, but the space allowed that man Torres to claim his brace, with Cole making a mistake on Kuyt’s flick-on, allowing Benayoun to get in behind. When the left back tried to make a recovering tackle, he could only shift the ball into the path of Torres, who only had to pass into an empty net to seal an exceptionally gratifying win.
Once again, I’m left feeling that luck is the determining factor in this league. You have to have the talent to take advantage of that luck – which Torres has in spades – and you have to put in the work – which Liverpool rarely fails to do – but lucky breaks often make the difference. Liverpool couldn’t buy a break in every single one of the draws before this match. But one bad decision by a referee prone to bad decisions has given Liverpool the opportunity to push on. And at the end of the day, the better team won, thanks to the brilliance of Fernando Torres and the diligence of every player in the side.
With the form United’s in, Liverpool will need a lot more than luck. But it seems a lot sunnier outside than it did an hour ago. Now Liverpool has to put it to use.