Dirk Kuyt returned to the starting line-up following a quicker than expected recovery from an ankle injury and the Dutchman provided Liverpool and Torres with confidence and support. Youngster Martin Kelly also found himself in the first eleven and the right-back coped incredibly well against the threat of Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole. But the visitors were without industrious midfield maestro Michael Essien and powerful striker Didier Drogba – whose absence was clearly felt by the Blues in the first period.
It took just eleven minutes for Liverpool to break the deadlock. Kuyt played a magnificent pass over the top of the Chelsea defence and Spaniard Torres expertly controlled the ball with his first touch before tucking it past Petr Cech. Kuyt’s assist showed just why he is vital to the Reds – the Dutchman brought some much-needed creativity to the side and Torres fed on that with his classy finish.
Chelsea, who failed to test Pepe Reina in the first half, were punished by Torres again just before the break. Portuguese box-to-box midfielder Raul Meireles nicked the ball from Ashley Cole in the middle of the park and found Torres on the left hand side. The Spaniard cut inside and unleashed a sensational right-footed strike past the watching Chelsea stopper. Liverpool were 2-0 up and their first-half performance was easily the best they have played this season.
The second period saw Chelsea introduce Didier Drogba and his presence was a key factor in the visitors’ domination of the half. Reina was first tested by a Zhirkov shot and then kept out Malouda’s attempt with an excellent instinctive save. The Reds could have gone further ahead had Cech not saved well from Kuyt. Chelsea’s Anelka was then very unfortunate that his effort could only find the bar whilst Hodgson introduced some substitutes in an attempt to wind down the clock. Time did eventually run out for the champions who slumped to their second league defeat of the season.
Although Torres was exceptional, an honourable mention must go out to Lucas Leiva. The much-maligned Brazilian made an outstanding contribution in the match with some superb passes and tackles as he dominated the midfield.
Liverpool climbed up in to the top half of the table with the win and are now just five points behind fourth-placed Manchester City. Hodgson’s team were the far the better side and their excellent performance will no doubt boost confidence on Merseyside. The victory will also give Roy Hodgson more time to impress at Anfield. Hodgson, who has been under pressure since he arrived at the club, finally seems to be turning things around at Liverpool. Although some remain unconvinced by the former Fulham boss, as long as he keeps masterminding the team to victory, his job should be safe.
The Reds can now look forward to a game against Wigan on Wednesday night. The Latics find themselves in the drop-zone at this early stage of the season and worryingly for Roberto Martinez, his side have the worst goal difference in the league. With Torres back to his best, Wigan could be in for a tough time against a resurgent Liverpool side.