Premier League - Liverpool win ruins Torres debut
Fernando Torres had a Chelsea debut to forget as his new club were beaten 1-0 by former employers Liverpool in the Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge.
After a week of expectation surrounding the Spain striker's British record move to west London, it was Raul Meireles who was the hero thanks to his 69th-minute strike which sealed fourth-straight win for Kenny Dalglish's side and a league double for the Reds over their rivals from the capital.
The fact that Liverpool managed the victory without either of their own big-money signings in action will make victory all the sweeter. Andy Carroll is still missing through injury, while Luis Suarez was an unused substitute. Chelsea's other major January addition, David Luiz, was introduced after his new team were already behind.
The win moves Liverpool up to sixth in the table, while Chelsea remain fourth and 10 points behind leaders Manchester United following their defeat at Wolves on Saturday.
With all the attention focused on Torres's debut against his former club, and following an extraordinary set of results from Saturday's fixtures, it was perhaps no surprise that much of this clash was something of an anti-climax.
The recent history between these two clubs has served up its fair share of thrilling encounters, but equally there have been several damp squibs, and this match largely fell into the latter category.
However, Liverpool fans will not care about that after Torres had his inauspicious first appearance ended when he was substituted on 66 minutes, having had just 29 touches of the ball.
Even when freed from the restraints of trying to accommodate their new acquisition, Chelsea's attack continued to lack potency and invention as they struggled to find ways through Liverpool's five-man defence.
It looked as though Torres's Chelsea career was set to get off to a dream start when, in the second minute, Maxi Rodriguez played the ball right to the feet of his former team-mate. Torres headed for goal but, with Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel in front of him, he could bend his shot off target.
The returning Carragher, making his first appearance since November, was the bookies' favourite to foul Torres first, but it was Daniel Agger who took that dubious honour when he barged the Spaniard over midway through the half. The resulting free-kick led to a corner from which Branislav Ivanovic glanced wide.
Soon afterwards Didier Drogba played Torres through and the £50 million man got in behind Skrtel to shoot on the turn, but his strike was blocked by the diving Carragher.
Maxi's day went from bad to worse when Steven Gerrard's dangerous low ball across the six-yard box was turned on to the bar by the Argentine midfielder from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.
The second half again failed to ignite, with clear chances few and far between. Glen Johnson fired a shot from range wide before Drogba had an effort inside the box blocked by Martin Kelly and Anelka fired wide from distance.
Torres's poor afternoon was ended on 66 minutes when he was replaced by Salomon Kalou, and he had barely got settled on his new team's bench when Liverpool went in front.
Petr Cech and Ivanovic had been at each other's throats in the first half when they got in each other's way trying to clear the ball, and their poor communication cost them a goal and ultimately the match. Both players left it to the other to deal with Gerrard's cross and the ball run between them and through to Meireles who finished to score his fourth goal in his last five games. It was the first league goal scored by a Liverpool player at Stamford Bridge since Bruno Cheyrou's strike in 2004.
The visiting fans, who had brought banners bearing slogans such as "He Who Betrays Will Always Walk Alone" and "Torres: a pawn on our chess board but the King remains", goaded their former idol with chants of "Torres, what's the score?", and Chelsea were unable to stem the abuse aimed at the bench by finding an equaliser.
The closest they came was when Anelka played through substitute Florent Malouda, whose shot at the near post was parried by Reina, and their desperate claims for a late penalty when Ivanovic was barged over by Johnson were ignored by the referee.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti vented his frustration at the fourth official, but he has now been left in no doubt about the task on his hands in fitting his new marquee signing into his team.