Torres 11, 44
It’s amazing what a few weeks can do in football. On the 3rd of October, Liverpool slumped to a 2-1 home defeat against the newly promoted Blackpool as, behind the scenes, the long struggle to find a new owner and avoid the looming prospect of administration rumbled on. Now, barely a month later, a rejuvenated Reds side have produced a spirited display to defeat league-leaders Chelsea, under the watchful eye of an owner who this week promised that the Liverpool are “definitely in the market for the highest calibre players” and declared his intention to see the side “competitive with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United… within five years, sooner than that.”
Football punditry is reactionary and sensationalist by nature, and one should always be wary of lofty pronouncements that a side has ‘turned a corner’. However, even the most cautious of Liverpool fans will be feeling a sense of renewed optimism after yesterday’s result. Chelsea were poor, especially in the opening forty-five minutes, and the Reds sat too deep in the second half, inviting pressure onto themselves which on another day could have cost them. However, it was an organised, feisty and – above all – confident display from the Reds, who looked an utterly different side to the one that slumped so meekly to defeat against Blackpool barely a month ago, and fully deserved the three points.
In no Liverpool player was this spirit of rejuvenation better epitomized than in the game’s runaway Man of the Match, Fernando Torres. The Spaniard controlled the ball brilliantly to slot home for his first goal, and curled it sublimely inside the far post for his second. He still doesn’t quite look 100% fit, but this brace – his first for the club since April – still represents an emphatic completion of his hard-fought return to form. Torres looked every inch the deadly striker who so wooed the Kop during his first couple of seasons at Anfield. Indeed, for Reds fans, his reaction to seeing the ball ripple the net for his second goal will have made for almost as enjoyable viewing as the goal itself – it appeared to be the ferociously delighted celebration of a player still deeply passionate about succeeding for his current club, despite its recent woes.
The Reds revival rolls on then. Their talismans have exploded back into form – Torres with his brace, Gerrard with his midweek hat-trick and excellent distributive display yesterday – and a number of other players are consistently improving: Martin Kelly was imperious yesterday, largely neutering a potent Chelsea left flank; Lucas Leiva produced the sort of industrious, composed performance that too often goes unnoticed by fans and pundits; and Raul Meireles displayed seemingly bottomless reserves of stamina and endeavour as well as a touch of passing class. Liverpool have now strung together four wins on the trot, and they sit in the top half of the table, equal on points with Spurs and only five points off the top four. Viewed through the lens of where the club was a month ago, this is a truly wonderful set of affairs. Add to that a new owner making all the right noises and Reds fans have reason for optimism indeed.
Hodgson won’t want to get carried away just yet; his side travel to Wigan on Wednesday, and a bad result there would spell a bout of rain on the Reds parade. But for now, he can feel good about the job he’s doing. Liverpool fans, meanwhile, can begin to look up the table with hunger.
34 Kelly – 23 Carragher – 37 Skrtel – 03 Konchesky
04 Raul Meireles (Spearing, 90) – 08 Gerrard – 21 Lucas Leiva – 17 Maxi Rodriguez
18 Kuyt (Shelvey, 84)
09 Torres (N’gog, 88)