Liverpool wins 1-0 at Chelsea, ruins Torres' debut
Liverpool's recovery under Kenny Dalglish reached a new high Sunday with a 1-0 victory at Chelsea as former Reds striker Fernando Torres failed to make an impact on his debut for the London club.
Chelsea's celebrations at snatching Torres from Anfield for 50 million pounds ($80 million) on Monday were muted by Liverpool's $18 million midfielder, Raul Meireles, scoring the winning goal.
Meireles, who arrived from FC Porto in August, hit a fourth goal in five games in the 69th minute after Steven Gerrard's cross was missed by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech and defender Branislav Ivanovic.
''Raul Meireles is in a real rich vein of form at the moment,'' Dalglish said. ''The wee man gets up in support in the box and has great technique.''
The goal helped to spare some of Maxi Rodriguez's earlier embarrassment after the Argentina winger fluffed his connection with Gerrard's pass and hit the crossbar when he had an open net.
Torres was limited to just two meaningful goalward efforts during 66 minutes on the pitch, with an early long-range strike going high into the stands and another shot blocked by former teammate Jamie Carragher.
''We have to give Fernando time to adjust to the shape (of the team),'' Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. ''He has experience, he has confidence, he didn't show problems before the game.''
While Liverpool's traveling fans taunted Torres with banners and chants, Dalglish was in no mood for gloating.
''I'm not here to talk about someone else's player,'' said the manager, who has returned to the Liverpool job after 20 years. ''I'm here to talk about my own players.''
Those players, who were battling relegation when Dalglish was hired a month ago, are now in contention for Europa League qualification.
The 18-time champions have won their last four matches without conceding a goal and are six points behind Chelsea, which is fourth in the final Champions League spot.
When Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson, Liverpool was four points above the relegation zone after its worst start for more than 50 years. Now the players want American owner John Henry to extend Dalglish's contract beyond the end of the season
''As a club and as players we didn't do enough to help the manager (Hodgson) out - the performances weren't good enough and obviously the managers take the brunt of it,'' Carragher said. ''Things have improved now and Kenny coming has got everyone onside ... for everyone, especially me and Stevie (Gerrard), he's a hero to us. The results are obviously going very well.''
Chelsea had also hoped to secure a fourth straight league win on Sunday after Torres was signed to reinvigorate its title defense.
But the Blues remain fourth - 10 points behind leader Manchester United, which lost for the first time this season at Wolverhampton on Saturday.
''We have to try to fight again for the title,'' Ancelotti said. ''It could happen that United can lose again. Every team can lose.''
Chelsea was denied a late penalty when Ivanovic tumbled under Glen Johnson's shoulder-charge.
''It was a penalty, but we didn't play well,'' Ancelotti said. ''We were not good enough to win this game. They defended very well and we were not able to find the right space to attack.''
While Torres was rushed into action by Ancelotti, his Anfield replacements didn't play at Stamford Bridge.
Andy Carroll is still recovering from injury and Dalglish resisted handing a second appearance to unused substitute Luis Suarez, despite the Uruguayan netting Wednesday in a win over Stoke.
Dirk Kuyt was handed the lone striking role, supported by Meireles and Gerrard.
''Suarez is a fantastic footballer, he got off to a great start, and we're looking forward to him getting in the team on a regular basis,'' Dalglish said. ''It's correct he gets some time to bed down.''
Carragher's crucial diving block to thwart Torres from Didier Drogba's cross came on the 33-year-old central defender's first appearance since sustaining a shoulder injury on Nov. 28.
''It's like getting another player in,'' Dalglish said. ''It's great credit to his level of fitness, even at his age. He's not a teenager any more ... he won't be feeling as good tomorrow, perhaps, but it was great to have him pushing people into position, talking and encouraging.''