Benítez hopes strife will not stifle plans as Torres proves his worth

Fernando Torres has consistently shown the value of bold investment this season but as both these teams face an uncertain summer it is unclear whether either will emerge stronger for the transfer window.

The £21.5m Spain striker's 24th Premier League goal broke Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for an overseas player in his first English campaign. But as Liverpool's boardroom rift threatens to disturb that club's summer plans the manager, Rafael Benítez, was preparing a case to persuade the American duumvirate owners that repeat investment will be money well spent. "We didn't win any silverware but if you talk about 119 goals [scored by

Liverpool in all competitions] it is the most in England," he said. "Another clean sheet from the goalkeeper who for three years in a row has won the golden gloves; Torres is the most prolific scorer in the Premier League; and 76 points is a good figure - there are a lot of positives."

The negatives lie elsewhere but for Tottenham there is no questioning the cohesion of the directors, nor their desire to reinforce the team. But such strengthening looks likely to be at the expense of Dimitar Berbatov, whose manager, Juande Ramos, refused to dismiss the suggestion that he would move, saying merely that "at present no offer has come in".

Ramos would probably not miss Berbatov, who on a hot day preserved his energy while his fellow forward, Robbie Keane, ferreted manfully. Torres, though, had no thoughts for his own summer starting early. "Torres and I talked before the game and he said he wanted to play here and to score. For him the most important was to break the record," said Benítez.

"Sometimes you sign a player on a free and he can be a bad signing, but he has been the best for us and everybody is happy. Was he expensive? No.

"Then other times you can sign a player for a lot of money and he does well and everyone is happy, so lucky for us he is a good signing. He is one of the best strikers in the Premier League and is the best for us."

Certainly Liverpool's fans were happy but while they recreated an Anfield atmosphere Tottenham's were taciturn. It was for their team to enliven the home crowd but for months there has been little evidence of that happening. As if embalmed in formaldehyde, Spurs have remained static in 11th place since January 19.

In the 12 Premier League games since Ledley King lifted the Carling Cup, Spurs have won only three times. To put that statistic into starker relief, among those results were a 4-1 home defeat to Newcastle United and, worse, a 4-1 reverse at Birmingham City, who were relegated yesterday.

"I think maybe we suffered after the Carling Cup success because we achieved our objectives too soon," said Ramos, who avoided the question when asked if coveted players might look at Spurs' inferior league form and refuse to sign.

This game certainly had little to attract attention. The first half saw only one meaningful save after Jamie O'Hara floated a corner for Berbatov, whose header required a sterling stop from Pepe Reina. Shortly after half-time Radek Cerny was forced into a similarly smart save after Steven Gerrard, under pressure from Gilberto, found Torres in the box, but his shot on the turn was blocked.

Soon, though, Liverpool had their lead. Andriy Voronin latched on to Torres's knocked-down header to lift it over Cerny from close in. Then five minutes later Torres slid in his landmark goal.

Will there be more where Torres came from while egos soar in the boardroom? "We are working hard to improve the squad," said Benítez. "Throughout the whole season we are watching players and trying to sign the players we need. It is possible if you do the right things at the right moment and get the players at the right time. I think we'll go forward."

Man of the match: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

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