On fire Fernando Torres keeps Liverpool in hunt for fourth
Liverpool 3 - 0 Sunderland
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez felt the hard work his side had been putting in over the last few weeks paid dividends in the 3-0 win over Sunderland at Anfield.
Two goals from Fernando Torres, taking his tally to seven in four matches and 18 in 21 Barclays Premier League appearances, either side of Glen Johnson's deflected strike secured an eighth successive home league win.
What was more impressive, however, was the opening 45 minutes in which Liverpool destroyed Sunderland with a high-tempo, attacking passing game not seen all season.
It would not have flattered the Reds had they been six goals to the good at half-time instead of the |2-0 scoreline they had to settle for.
Centre-back Daniel Agger had three good chances, Maxi Rodriguez's near-post header was tipped over by goalkeeper Craig Gordon while Torres also hit the post and then bundled the rebound wide.
It left the always difficult to please Benitez more than satisfied as he felt it justified his much-criticised tactics.
“Always you try to do your best and play a bit better,” he said.
“But today we started with a really high tempo, passing the ball well and scoring an early goal always helps,” he said.
“With the same tactics we scored more goals than anyone in the Premier League last year and more goals than anyone in England two years ago.
“It is a question sometimes of accuracy, pass completion or just a little bit of luck.”
Benitez paid tribute to the quality of Torres' strikes and not just the first which flew into the top corner from wide on the left.
“It (the first) is one of Fernando's better goals but also, with the second one, sometimes it is not just a good strike but to do the right thing at the right moment,” he added.
Benitez said his — and his players' — main concern was to secure Champions League qualification.
“At this moment the main thing for all of us is to try to play well and win games and we will be closer to the top four,” added the Reds boss. “We know we have to keep going. You can see the players have confidence and if we play at this level we will win more games for sure.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said: “Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a far better team. They got off to a wonderful start and when Torres and Steven Gerrard are in the mood then it becomes very difficult.
“It's a wonder goal the first one.
We all know he is a class act when he plays like that. He is a fantastic centre-forward.”