Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Steven Beacom: Forget it Torres, Kenny Dalglish is still the king

It was 25 years ago that Kenny Dalglish led Liverpool to the double. Then a player/manager, he scored the goal that clinched the Reds the league title. At Stamford Bridge in a 1-0 win.

It was one of the greatest triumphs in Dalglish's success filled career.

When the final whistle blew that day, a broad smile lit up Dalglish's face and he raised his arms to the sky in celebration.

Yesterday at the Bridge the scene was repeated with King Kenny masterminding another famous victory in west London, this time purely as the boss.

Tactically Liverpool were just about perfect, securing a 1-0 win, thanks to a Raul Meireles strike, that has surely killed off Chelsea's hopes of retaining the Premier League.

And this on an afternoon supposed to be all about Fernando Torres, signed in an attempt to rocket Carlo Ancelotti's men back into the title race.

The hype surrounding Torres ahead of his Chelsea debut, following his record breaking and controversial £50m switch from Liverpool, was akin to that of an Ali fight in the 70s.

But it amounted to nothing as, not for the first time this season, his display wasn't worth 50p, let alone 50 million quid.

Torres has come in for savage criticism from Merseyside since changing colours. As a red the Spaniard was revered for his goals and supposed commitment to the cause.

Both were in short supply this season at Liverpool, except when he auditioned for Chelsea by scoring twice against them in a 2-0 win at Anfield, as it became clear he wasn't interested in playing for the club.

He wanted to go blue with Chelsea. That was bad enough but he made things worse with ill-advised comments when he signed about “now being at a top club” and in a position to win honours like the domestic league and Champions League.

Feeling betrayed, Liverpool fans were furious and showed how much yesterday. The former Kop idol was jeered throughout and taunted about everything under the sun. From hero to zero in one £50m move.

On the evidence of his performance against his old team, Chelsea fans will be questioning whether he is worth the money.

Torres cut a forlorn figure as he was dispossessed time after time by a determined Liverpool side, desperate not to give him an inch. He was surrounded by a mass of bodies virtually every time he received the ball and there was no way out.

On the only occasion Torres threatened, Jamie Carragher, truly committed to Liverpool and back in action after injury, made the type of block that he should copyright.

With Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in the same starting line-up it seemed like one forward too far as Chelsea's disjointed attack was stifled by the outstanding Liverpool defence.

So poor were the home side that Ancelotti had to make a change and it was Torres who was sacrificed on 66 minutes much to the growing pleasure of the away fans.

It got even better for them moments later when Steven Gerrard's intelligent cross was missed by the uncertain Branislav Ivanovic and Petr Cech allowing Meireles to drill a sharp left foot effort into the net. It was a fine finish from Meireles, fast becoming the man with the midas touch in front of goal for Dalglish.

Chelsea had more possession but the visitors always looked that little bit more dangerous and should have been in front earlier when Maxi Rodriguez contrived to hit the bar rather than the net from two yards out.

Even after Dalglish's men took the lead with 20 minutes left the expected onslaught from the champions didn't materialise. A late shout for a penalty was optimistic at best.

While Kenny savoured the final whistle, the hearts of Ancelotti and his players sunk.

They knew that with games running out their chances of back to back titles had gone.

After slip-ups from Manchester United and Arsenal on Saturday, the Blues had a golden opportunity to flex their muscles.

It was Liverpool, without their new recruits Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, who looked stronger and Chelsea 10 points behind leaders United, even though they still have to play them twice, know their race is run despite shelling out over £70 million on new players —

£21 million defender David Luiz was also signed on deadline day. Big buys but bye-bye to the title!

And a fight on to finish in the top four. It's probably beyond them but if Liverpool, up to sixth now, keep winning they might just sneak into the Champions League places.

They are six points behind Chelsea, who are fourth, and with the momentum gained from Dalglish's inspiration, more positive results will come.

Liverpool edging out Chelsea for a Champions League slot. Now that would be something.

Torres would certainly rue walking out of Anfield then while Kenny would have more to smile about.

No question about it, Dalglish is turning Liverpool into winners again.

Just the sort of team a certain Spaniard declared he wanted to play for.

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