Terrific Torres the new Kop king
This has not been the finest week for Rafael Benitez and public proclamations - his rant against Premier League conspirators was a bizarre departure for such a considered man - yet his appeal for Liverpool supporters not to herald Fernando Torres as the new Kenny Dalglish showed he hasn't abandoned his natural caution altogether.
An impressive debut from the club's record signing against Chelsea fuelled expectations to exorbitant levels at Anfield but Benitez was equally swift to douse them as he allows his compatriot time to adapt.
Yet there is substance in the eulogising, with Torres displaying some of the traits that elevated Dalglish to greatness and which should hold the striker in good stead as he attempts to disprove the Fernando Morientes theory of Spanish centre-forwards crumbling at Anfield; a velvet touch, a fierce work ethic and strength that belies his frame.
In a game dominated by Liverpool, yet where their evident superiority was not transferred onto the scoresheet, the former Atletico Madrid captain was a persistent menace to a Sunderland defence that was eager but unable to restore solidity following last weekend's humbling at Wigan.
Ross Wallace, the Sunderland left back, Nyron Nosworthy and fellow centre back Paul McShane all felt the unexpected strength of Torres at the Stadium of Light, with all three sent to ground in the opening half as they tried and failed to succeed in 50-50 challenges with the 23-year-old. With Andriy Voronin leading the line for Liverpool, his strike partner seized the licence to maraud in a deeper role, winning several important challenges in midfield and employing his aerial strength to defend the set-pieces that provided Sunderland's finest prospect of an equaliser.
It is in the opposition penalty area, of course, where Torres will have the greater impact on Liverpool's season and his own legacy at Anfield, and it is here where questions over his potential impact remain. Here there was no delightful invitation from Steven Gerrard from which to reprise his impressive debut goal against Chelsea, the Liverpool captain sidelined with a hairline fracture of the toe and missed in a game of minimal flair, yet Torres still had three excellent openings to seal the points long before Voronin and did not convince with either.
The first, on the stroke of half time, saw him send a diving header straight at £9m goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who claimed the ball at the second attempt but should not have had the opportunity with Torres completely unmarked and central to goal when the cross from Jermaine Pennant arrived.
The second was all of his own making, Torres's impressive acceleration taking him beyond Nosworthy in the 51st minute only to shoot straight at Gordon as the home keeper advanced, and finally a difficult lob was sent over the bar when his pace had again left the Sunderland defence trailing. With six points from two away games thus far, however, Liverpool will not find it difficult to dismiss any complaints as irrelevant.
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