Fernando Torres grabbed his first Liverpool hat-trick against Reading in the Carling Cup, despite being literally kicked around by Reading’s defenders throughout the match.
Yossi Benayoun had opened the scoring with a well taken and individually created goal, before Reading equalised with a volley from Bobby Convey, but Torres put the Reds back ahead before Reading again equalised from a corner leading to John Halls equalising for the home side for a second time.
Torres though was in fine form and despite being heavily shackled by Michael Duberry and Andre Bikey – both of whom were eventually booked – scored an impressive second and a fantastic third to make the final score 4-2 to Liverpool and give the Spaniard a thoroughly deserved hat-trick.
Referee Martin Atkinson seemed happy to allow Reading, and in particular Duberry and Bikey, to put in late challenges, synical fouls and get away with over aggressiveness. Eventually both Reading centre backs were booked but how they both remained on the pitch will remain a mystery for Reds fans. Torres should have won a penalty when he was tripped by Duberry but Atkinson failed to award it, Nicky Shorey somehow escaped a booking after bringing down Benayoun when clearly behind play.
Rafa Benitez gave a full debut to Brazilian under 21 captain Lucas Leiva in midfield alongside Momo Sissoko; Sebastien Leto started on the left of midfield; Fabio Aurelio made a return after serious injury at left back, Charles Itandje also made his debut in goal and Alvaro Arbeloa started alongside Jamie Carragher in defence.
It was Torres though who stole the show and all three finishes showed his class – first he finished well from a Benayoun pass, then he guided the ball home after good work by substitute John Arne Riise down the left and finished the trick after a Steven Gerrard through ball when he coolly rounded the keeper and finished the 4-2 win.
Benitez praised Torres after the match;
“He had a lot of space and he killed their defenders with his pace and movement. The understanding between him and Crouch was very good and I thought it was a fantastic team performance.”
Reading: Federici, Halls (Kitson 80), Duberry, Bikey, Shorey, De la Cruz, Harper, Convey (Hunt 80), Fae, Long (Henry 79), Lita.
Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Cisse
Booked: Bikey, Duberry, Fae
Goals: Convey 28, Halls 64
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Lucas (Hobbs 89), Aurelio (Riise 69), Arbeloa, Benayoun, Sissoko, Leto, Crouch (Gerrard 77), Torres
Subs Not Used: Martin, Putterill
Goals: Benayoun 23, Torres 50, 72, 86
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)