Torres to the rescue with stunning strike
Torres had hardly seen the ball in the opening 80 minutes but once he found space 30 yards out he let fly with a perfect strike into the bottom corner which flew past Craig Gordon.
Rafa Benitez somewhat surprisingly left Xabi Alonso out of the starting line-up instead opting for Damien Plessis alongside Steven Gerrard in midfield. But Alonso did come on at half time, with Plessis injured, and almost scored another goal from inside his own half as he began to control the game from the middle and thus gave Liverpool much better possesion.
Andrea Dossena and Robbie Keane made their Premier League debuts for Liverpool, while Sami Hyypia surprisingly started ahead of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, both of whom where on the bench. The bench which now carries seven subs for the new season.
Sunderland started the better side but Liverpool bossed the possesion, failing to finish until Torres’ strike, and deserved win but the performance wasn’t convincing. Early days but it’s winning that matters and Liverpool did that today, courtesy of Torres’ brilliance.
High Quality Highlights:
BBC Sport Match Report:
Torres collected a Xabi Alonso pass, turned into space and rifled home a sensational drive into Craig Gordon’s bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.
Sunderland did not deserve to lose and Daryl Murphy headed their best chance straight at goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Gordon saved from Yossi Benayoun and debutant Robbie Keane unintentionally blocked Torres’ shot before his winner.
After a turbulent couple of weeks for Liverpool which led to speculation in Saturday’s newspapers boss Rafa Benitez might quit the club, it was a much-needed early season boost for the Reds.
Benitez has been frustrated over their failed attempts to sign Aston Villa‘s Gareth Barry and they could only draw 0-0 against Standard Liege on Wednesday in their Champions League third qualifying round first-leg match.
But Torres’ brilliant late finish gives them the perfect start to the league season and takes the pressure off Benitez, who reiterated his commitment to the club before the game.
With summer signing Keane making his league debut up front alongside Torres, much was expected from Liverpool‘s Â£46m strikeforce.
But Keane failed to sparkle throughout and he was taken off six minutes before Torres’ late strike.
It was Sunderland who created the best chances in a first half devoid of great quality, with El-Hadji Diouf in lively form on his debut against his old employers.
Diouf latched on to Sami Hyypia’s weak back header early on, but Jamie Carragher managed to avert the danger just in the nick of time.
Soon after, Diouf sent over a lovely cross from the left that was begging to be headed in, but Murphy could only nod straight at Reina.
Liverpool slowly began to assert themselves in midfield and as Steven Gerrard saw more of the ball, so their threat grew.
The Reds wanted a penalty when Benayoun was felled in the box by Pascal Chimbonda, but referee Alan Wiley had already blown for Nyron Nosworthy’s trip on Gerrard outside the box and the captain’s free-kick flew straight into the wall.
Sunderland began the second half better and Murphy scampered away down the left and put in a fine cross for Diouf, but the Senegalese failed to connect properly with his left-foot shot.
But Liverpool were enjoying more possession and despite their ineffective new forward partnership, they did begin to put concerted pressure on the hosts.
Benayoun forced Gordon to save low down to his right, before Keane got in the way of a Torres shot after Dirk Kuyt’s effort had been deflected and saved by Gordon.
Xabi Alonso then tried an audacious shot from fully 60 yards that flew over Gordon’s head and would have beaten the Black Cats keeper had it not been a foot wide of his left-hand post.
Just when it looked as though the game would peter out into a draw, up stepped Torres to turn and fire in from 25 yards to stun the home crowd.
Sunderland: Gordon, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Collins, Bardsley, Malbranque (Edwards 73), Tainio (Whitehead 57), Reid, Richardson, Diouf (Chopra 81), Murphy.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Leadbitter, Higginbotham, Stokes.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Kuyt, Gerrard, Plessis (Alonso 46), Benayoun (Aurelio 81), Keane (El Zhar 77), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Skrtel.
Booked: Arbeloa, El Zhar.
Goals: Torres 83.
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)
0 Goals 1
6 Shots 14
3 Shots Off 6
1 Corners 8
2 Offside 0
12 Fouls 13
0 Yellows 2
0 Reds 0
46% Possesion 54%