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Dynamite Fernando Torres at the double

THIS time it was Fernando Torres' turn to dish out the punishment.

The striker had picked up as many black eyes as goals during the opening month of the campaign.

Roughed up by defenders and warned by his manager to stop taking out his frustration on officials, Torres had at times cut a forlorn figure.

But beneath those boyish looks lies a big heart and a steely determination to take his revenge in the way he knows best.

West Ham were the ones left feeling the pain at Upton Park on Saturday as Torres' devastating double ensured Liverpool's recent resurgence continued.

The striker admitted last week he hasn't been in top form so far this season. The Confederations Cup meant he didn't get a proper break and his late return in pre-season left him playing catch-up.

But if this is Torres in second gear then it's going to be some sight when he's firing on all cylinders.

A player supposedly out of sorts now boasts five goals in six Premier League games – that's a crisis of confidence most strikers can only dream of.

Torres had the first and last word in a thrilling contest to extend the Reds' impressive record in East London.

This was the fourth time Benitez had tasted victory here in five visits but the boss wasn't sitting comfortably for much of this game.

Twice he saw his side take the lead courtesy of Torres and Dirk Kuyt but on each occasion the Reds proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot.

Defensively they looked vulnerable and sloppy errors allowed Alessandro Diamanti and Carlton Cole to restore parity before the break.

In the second half the Reds wrestled back control but all their pressure looked set to go unrewarded until they found an unlikely hero in the form of Ryan Babel.

It was a risk by Benitez throwing on the much maligned Dutchman ahead of Albert Riera but it proved to be a tactical master stoke.

With the Hammers tiring, Babel's pace was ideal to exploit the acres of space and his perfect cross put the winner on a plate for Torres.

Babel still has much to do to win over supporters but this was at least one step on the road to redemption.

Liverpool's last trip to West Ham back in May was a walk in the park as Steven Gerrard's strike after 72 seconds put them on course for an emphatic 3-0 victory.

This was always going to be a much tougher test with Gianfranco Zola's side desperate to kick-start their season.

The warning signs were there inside two minutes as Jamie Carragher was robbed by Zavon Hines and his shot bounced back off the post into Pepe Reina's grateful arms.

Hines comes from the same Caribbean island as sprinter Usain Bolt and boasts a similar turn of pace.

The 20-year-old is the latest in a long line of exciting talents to emerge from the Hammers' academy and Liverpool struggled to handle him.

Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Javier Mascherano were all booked for bringing him down.

Hines forced the foul from Carragher which allowed Diamanti to equalise from the spot just before the half hour mark.

The Italian got lucky as the ball lobbed up into the roof of the net with referee Andre Marriner failing to spot he had struck the ball twice after slipping.

This wasn't an afternoon Carragher will look back on fondly but he wasn't the only one.

The Reds' defensive rock, who has been a model of consistency for over a decade, was exposed in the build up to the penalty by Glen Johnson being caught out of position.

Emiliano Insua was the only member of the back four who could truly say they performed to their usual high standard.

Diamanti's spot-kick arrived nine minutes after Torres' moment of individual brilliance had brought the game to life.

There appeared to be little danger when Insua picked him out on the far side of the box but a dazzling run left James Tomkins trailing and from a seemingly impossible angle Torres smashed his shot past Robert Green.

That advantage was soon lost but Liverpool regained the initiative four minutes before the break.
Gerrard rose highest in the box to meet Yossi Benayoun's corner and his goal-bound header was poked home from close range by Kuyt.

Usually in situations like that it's Gerrard providing the set-piece delivery, but his aerial threat is such that he needs to spend more time lurking in the penalty box.

It should have been the knockout blow but Benitez's team talk was ripped up after more slack defending on the stroke of half-time.

Skrtel's uncharacteristic error put the Reds on the back foot and from Mark Noble's corner Cole rose highest to head home.

It was a classy header from the powerful England frontman which gave more ammunition to those critics of zonal marking.

Remarkably, of the nine goals the Reds have conceded so far this season just one has come from open play.

Liverpool regrouped and in the second half they dominated possession and penned the Hammers back in their own half.

When Mascherano plied his trade at West Ham he found himself behind Hayden Mullins in the pecking order.

But the Argentinean, who came back into the side at the expense of Riera, showed the home fans what they were missing with an all-action display.

Lucas shone alongside him and the central midfield duo needed to be at their best against the excellent Scott Parker.

Mascherano and Lucas provided the platform for the Reds to go in search of a winner.

Benayoun threatened to provide it after a mesmerising run into the box but there was no end product.

Liverpool needed inspiration and with 15 minutes to go Babel, who had replaced Kuyt, provided it.

After Johnson's shot had been blocked he raced past Hines and picked out Torres who nodded past Green. Torres has just brought out his life story but at 25 surely the best chapters are yet to be written.

"He was very cheap," Benitez said of his £20million frontman.

And the boss is right because on days like this the Spaniard is priceless.

West Ham United 2 – 3
(HT 2 – 2)
Liverpool
Diamanti (pen) 29
Cole 45
Torres 20
Kuyt 41
Torres 75

Bookings Parker 31
Faubert 36
Cole 90
Carragher 29
Skrtel 44
Mascherano 50

West Ham United's Percentage Liverpool's Percentage
Corners 4 50% 4 50%
Goal attempts 9 32% 19 68%
On target 6 28% 15 72%
Fouls 13 43% 17 57%
Offside 4 66% 2 34%

West Ham United Robert Green, Herita Ilunga, Matthew Upson (Danny Gabbidon, 25), James Tomkins, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Julien Faubert, Valon Behrami (Radoslav Kovac, 27), Zavon Hines, Carlton Cole, Alessandro Diamanti (Kieron Dyer, 65)

Liverpool Jose Manuel Reina, Emiliano Insua, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun (Fabio Aurelio, 85), Dirk Kuyt (Ryan Babel, 60), Fernando Torres (Albert Riera, 90)

Referee Marriner, A
Venue Upton Park
Attendance 34,658

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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