Johnson Skrtel Carragher Insua
Benayoun Kuyt Riera
Torres 12’ 28’ 47’
Babel 88’ 90+1’
So much for struggling to beat the teams that just want a draw at Anfield. 13 goals put past Stoke, Burnley, and Hull – and Liverpool dropped points against Stoke and Hull last season.
It didn’t look like it’d end 6-1 at halftime. A 12th minute goal by Torres appeared to initiate an avalanche, but defensive blunders crept back in to postpone the rout. Liverpool had started the brighter, and when Riera found #9 in the box, Torres deftly shifted onto his left past Sonko and slotted in the far corner. I think he might have found his form.
Liverpool’s clearly had problems with set plays this season, but shipping goals soon after scoring has been as much of an issue. Spurs went 2-1 up three minutes after Gerrard equalized. Villa went 3-1 up three minutes after Torres pulled one back. West Ham equalized twice, after nine and four minutes respectively, before Liverpool finally went up for good.
And three minutes after Torres sent Liverpool on its way, Skrtel shakily headed a clearance straight to an-unmarked Geovanni, who made no mistake from 10 yards out. Poor judgment by Skrtel, but more worrying was the lack of communication between him and Carragher. An ignominious first goal conceded from open play to say the least. Thankfully, it’d be the last real threat.
The goal knocked Liverpool off their stride, and the home side had to endure five or so unsteady minutes before normal service resumed. No prizes for guessing who put Liverpool back in front. Benayoun fed Torres in the box, and the striker tangoed through the penalty area, rounding both Sonko and Myhill before toe-poking in. With two goals to his name in less than half an hour, a hat trick was always coming.
Hull made Liverpool work for the rest of the half, but the second was a completely different story. Two minutes after the restart, Benayoun again released Torres, who again beat Sonko before hammering through McShane’s legs after it looked like the chance might have gone. That was his eight of the season (in seven games!) and fourth hat trick for Liverpool. Superlatives fail me.
The away side was never going to come back from two down, and Liverpool allowed Hull a bit of possession with no end product, which would pay off as the visitors had hands on knees by the 80th minute. It took 14 minutes for the captain to seal it, which obviously means Liverpool are a two-man team. Was it on purpose? Getting the ball back from Insua after a corner, Gerrard curled it over Myhill from the left flank with Kuyt at the back post. Yeah, he probably didn’t mean it, but if anyone could mean to do that, it’s Gerrard.
The lead allowed Benitez to protect Torres, Gerrard, and Benayoun with an eye on Fiorentina and Chelsea as Babel, Mascherano, and Voronin came on. The Dutchman finally saw extended time as a central striker, and looked like he was going to waste the opportunity until the final two minutes despite constant Liverpool pressure as he and Voronin contrived to miss chances (not for lack of effort).
But Liverpool pushed until the final whistle as Hull was run ragged and demoralized, and Babel was rewarded with two late goals. The first was an awesome one-two with his countryman, releasing Kuyt on the right and getting into a perfect position to flick it in from a few yards out. Three minutes later, he got in the way of Riera’s blast, only to see fortune favor the brave, with the deflection off his back heel taking it past Myhill.
After a display like that, all eyes are going to be on the attack, and rightfully so. But other than the early equalizer, there were no defensive nightmares. Carragher was back to form marshaling the defense, and on today’s display, the Slovakian will be more under threat by Agger’s return, but it was just one game. Plus, no goals from set plays(!) despite the dangerous Geovanni and Sonko’s long throws.
And that attack. Now that’s an attack. There have been 23 games since Sunderland on March 3. Liverpool has scored 67 goals, an average of 2.9 a game. Yikes.
Torres’ genius unlocked and won the game, but the line of three behind him again caused countless problems. Benayoun was the provider for two of Torres’ goals, Kuyt popped up all over the pitch, and Riera tortured McShane all day long (and probably should be credited with the last goal). Gerrard, who still scored, again wasn’t as influential in the final third, but again, he didn’t need to be.
Mascherano will assuredly come back into the side against Fiorentina and Chelsea. And he will be crucial against the Londoners; you only have to look back to the 1-3 CL loss to see what Masch means against the Blues. But once again, Gerrard and Lucas in central midfield worked a treat against a bottom-table side. This is the second time Liverpool’s bettered a result from last season – beating both Hull and Stoke where they could only draw a year ago.
Outside of the lone goal conceded from open play, you couldn’t ask for a better result before the trip to Florence.