26 September 2007


Torres the star turn with a hattrick

Back in the team and in the goals, Fernando Torres returned Liverpool to winning ways and reminded Rafa Benitez of his scoring prowess.
A superb hat-trick from the £26.5million Spaniard, restored to the team after being on the bench against Birmingham on Saturday, booked the Reds a place in the Carling Cup fourth round and finally saw off Reading, who twice came from behind.
Yossi Benayoun fired Liverpool ahead in the 23rd minute with his first goal for the club but Bobby Convey equalised five minutes later with a controversial left foot volley.
Torres struck early in the second half but John Halls levelled again only for the visitors' striker to clinch victory with two stunning finishes.
Both managers, true to their Carling Cup reputations, made wholesale changes. 'Using the full depth of the squad' was Steve Coppell's euphemism as he picked a team with just three survivors from the 11 who started against Wigan on Saturday.
Benitez made nine changes to the team who drew at home to Birmingham but there was a first taste of the competition for Torres, up front alongside Peter Crouch.
It looked like being a decision he would regret when Torres needed lengthy treatment after a perfectly fair sliding tackle from Andre Bikey in the first minute.
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva pierced the defence with a smart pass and Torres pressed the accelerator but Bikey matched him for pace and swept the ball to safety.
Torres fell awkwardly but continued after hobbling around gingerly.
Fabio Aurelio came in at left back for his first start since he ruptured an Achilles tendon last season, with Alvaro Arbeloa joining Jamie Carragher in central defence.
Benitez also gave a debut to former France Under 21 keeper Charles Itandje, signed from Lens in the summer, and he came under early pressure as Reading started positively.
England Under 21 striker Leroy Lita drifted away from Arbeloa into space to meet a right wing cross from Halls on 21 minutes but his header was tame and straight at Itandje from six yards.
Two minutes after Lita fluffed his header, the visitors were ahead.
Benayoun collected a loose ball in midfield from Bikey's defensive header, skipped past two players and smashed a shot past stand-in keeper Adam Federici from just inside the penalty box.
Torres then wriggled clear of Bikey and squeezed a low drive just wide before Lita squandered another opening. Once again he slipped his markers and was found by Emerse Fae's pass but this time Lita's chest control let him down as he raced towards goal and Itandje snuffed out the danger.
Reading equalised on 28 minutes with a fine goal from American Convey. Momo Sissoko cleared a corner from the near post but there were no red shirts policing the edge of the area where Convey had space to let the ball to drop and connect with a sweet left-foot volley which flashed into the bottom corner.
Itandje's view was obscured by four Reading players, all standing in offside positions as Liverpool's defence ran out. Lita was standing in front of the keeper, but there was no flag and few Liverpool protests.
Convey came close to a second before the interval. First he headed over at full stretch and then forced Itandje into action with a rightfooter which zipped off the turf. The Liverpool keeper could not hold it but he beat the effort away.
Sebastian Leto, a £2m signing from Lanus, was causing problems for Reading. He gave the ball away in midfield before quickly winning it back and releasing Torres.
The striker raced clear of defender Michael Duberry and supplied a clinical finish, low past Federici as he dashed out.
Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty when Torres was tripped clumsily by Bikey as he again moved menacingly towards goal but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on.
Just as the Merseysiders looked set to close out the game, Coppell's men levelled again when Halls forced the ball in after Itandje had flapped at a corner on 64 minutes.
John Arne Riise came on and broke through on the left to set up Torres for a fine lunging finish before the latter completed his hattrick after he was played through and rounded Federici.
utusanLFC : This is one the satisfying game. I arrived home after work at 1am and couldn't put my eyes to sleep. I'm more worried if I can't wake up in an hour so I just switch on the tv watching E!.... And when the game ended at 5am... all the sleepy thoughts were gone! Really really feel good...!

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