Which one was your favourite then? That remarkable dipping, curling third minute effort from the corner of the box, which was so perfectly placed that you wondered at first if it had got a deflection? Or his second, when Fernando Torres appeared to briefly stop time before he nonchalantly lifted the ball past the stranded Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon and several of his defenders? Either way, Anfield witnessed something truly remarkable on Sunday afternoon. At least, it would have been remarkable if it didn’t happen so often.
Torres has been scoring goals of stunning quality for Liverpool for the past two and a half years. He’s got 70 in 113 appearances in all competitions, 18 league goals in just 19 starts this season, seven in his last four games, 40 in his 41 league outings at Anfield. The magic numbers continue to add up and make for sweet reading for his club’s supporters, none of whom would swap him for anyone else. Why would they when he can produce moments like these? Both goals were a study in sheer genius, with the first having a somewhat ridiculous quality about it. Michael Turner and the rest of the Sunderland defenders must have feared what was coming next when Torres picked up Pepe Reina’s long ball wide on the left hand side early on in the piece, but they – like many others worldwide – couldn’t do a thing about it. It takes a special talent to even think about attempting an effort from there, but to actually pull it off is something different entirely.
One lesser discussed quality of the goal was its timing, it created a platform on which the Reds could perform for the remainder of the half, and Liverpool’s most comprehensively impressive 45 minutes of the season was gratefully received. They could have been putting new light bulbs in the scoreboard by half time, as Torres, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger (three times), the impressive Maxi Rodriguez and – finally the successful – Glen Johnson all tried their luck. The right-back’s goal was a deserved one based on his performance, and his probing runs from the right-flank have been welcome additions to this Liverpool team ever since his return from injury at the start of the month. His strike was his first since scoring twice in his first four games for the club, and his goal threat adds plenty to Rafael Benitez’ team. He can pick out a pass too, as he showed in the second half.
Everything appeared to grind to a halt when Torres picked up Johnson’s pass in the Sunderland penalty area on the hour mark. Cometh the hour, cometh one of the greatest of men, as the forward simply waited for everyone around him to fall into line with what he wanted them to do. It takes such courage and skill to do that – many forwards would have lashed at the ball the first chance they got – and there was so much to admire in what, on the face of it, looked like a run-of-the-mill goal at first. We should have known better – there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about Torres. It was sublime.
Liverpool’s home form is pretty good at the moment too, as their latest success made it eight league victories in a row at Anfield, with 10 wins from their last 11 home games in all competitions. Sadly for them though, the Reds do have to play away from home from time to time, and face tough back to back tests at Benfica and Birmingham in the coming week. Lisbon on April Fool’s Day will be a challenging task, but the joke could be on the hosts if Liverpool continue to show the encouraging attacking form that they’ve displayed in recent weeks. Benfica are strong opponents though, they beat Everton at home and away earlier in the competition – registering a 5-0 win in Lisbon – but they’ll be wary of Torres after his exploits against another team who play at the Stadium of Light, albeit one that’s usually a bit colder.
An away goal should set up the return leg at Anfield nicely, and if it is to come then there won’t be many betting against Torres being the man who provides it. It’s not the glory-laden end of the season that Liverpool supporters would have been dreaming about in August, but as long as they’ve got a certain blond Spaniard in their club’s number 9 shirt, they’ll have plenty of reasons to be happy.