Liverpool enjoyed a comfortable home win over Hull City at Anfield on Saturday afternoon to extend their winning run to six matches. Fernando Torres was at his devastating best against the Tigers, scoring three in a 6-0 demolition. El Nino grabbed his fourth hat trick in a Liverpool shirt during what was surely one of his finest performances for the Reds.
Rafa Benitez recalled all of his rested stars after the midweek Carling Cup win over Leeds United. Steven Gerrard returning to a deeper role alongside Lucas in midfield in an attacking line up, as Javier Mascherano was left out. And Liverpool’s attacking intent paid off as Torres and co ran riot against a sorry Hull City defence.
Torres found himself clean through on goal after Gerrard comfortably sliced open the away defence in the opening minute, only for Boaz Myhill to reach the ball first. Torres had more luck on 12 minutes, the Spaniard received a ball in from Riera, turned the Hull defender with ease and exquisitely slotted the ball beyond Myhill.
Having started the game relatively slowly, most inside Anfield assumed Torres’ opener would spark the Reds into life and more goals would follow. But Hull stunned the home crowd just 3 minutes after the opener by levelling the scores and again exposing Liverpool’s defensive frailties. Martin Skrtel failed to effectively deal with a ball into the box from Paul McShane and the ball fell to Geovanni in acres of space 10 yards out. The lively Brazilian finished well, driving the ball past Reina, to grab the Premier League strugglers a surprise equaliser.
The Reds defensive problems were highlighted on a couple of occasions during the opening half. With the Reds appearing to be suffering from a lack of commanding players when defending their own area, particularly. This is probably not helped by Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel struggling to quite find the form of previous campaigns. But at the moment any defensive issues which Liverpool may be suffering are proving merely consequential, as the goals continue to fly in at the other end of the pitch. The Reds have now amassed 22 goals from 7 league matches – 15 of those coming at Anfield.
The opening period was fairly well matched, with the magnificent Torres proving the difference between the two teams. And it was Torres who restored Liverpool’s advantage before half-time with one of the coolest finishes you are likely to see anywhere. The striker received the ball from Yossi Benayoun in the right-hand side of the Hull area and, when most would have shot sooner and perhaps wasted the chance, Torres cooly and confidently took the ball round both Ibrahima Sonko and Myhill to virtually walk the ball into the net.
Phil Brown’s Hull City came into the game low on confidence, having received plenty of criticism of late. They have won just one league game so far this season and came into the match on the back of a 4-0 midweek Carling Cup defeat to Everton. However Hull proved surprisingly well organised for much of the first half, with Liverpool unable to create many clear-cut opportunities. They also looked to test the Liverpool back four themselves, with Geovanni far-and-away the stand out player in the away side.
But if Hull had been relatively resistant in the first half, they disappeared as an attacking force and capitulated defensively during the second. After the interval Liverpool were able to take their game to a higher level and fully exploit all of the frailties which have encouraged many people to tip the team from Humberside to be among the favourites for relegation this season.
Lucas again performed well in midfield, keeping the Reds moving and stringing moves together – justifying Rafa’s decision to select the Brazilian ahead of Mascherano. This allowed the attacking players to work their magic; and none more so than Fernando Torres. The Spaniard completed his hat trick moments into the second period with another superbly taken goal. Admittedly Hull’s fragile defence contributed to their own downfall at times, but they simply could not cope with Torres, as he took on the entire Hull backline singlehandedly time and again.
Torres was truly majestic; every time he got the ball he seemed likely to cause problems. If El Nino hadn’t been replaced by Ryan Babel on 67 minutes, perhaps with Tuesday’s trip to Fiorentina in mind, he would, in all likelyhood, have gone on to score more. He has put in some magnificent performances in a Liverpool shirt, but this was amongst the best, as the standing ovation from the away section illustrated as he left the field.
However Hull were not afforded any respite after Torres’ departure. In fact the away defence began to look even more calamitous as the half progressed, with Sonko and 18 yeard-old Liam Cooper proving a soft centre to Hull’s rearguard. Gerrard didn’t enjoy his most memorable afternoon in a more restrictive central midfield role, but his third goal of the season on 61 minutes is one he will remember. The skipper received the ball on the left touchline after his corner had been cleared and his strike seemed to be more of a cross than a shot, but the ball floated over Myhill and into the far corner for Liverpool’s fourth.
Substitute Babel added some gloss to the score line and found a much-needed confidence boost, with two late goals. The first was well worked between Dutch pair Babel and Dirk Kuyt. A clever flick from Babel, playing as a centre-forward, released Kuyt and Babel ran into the box and got on the ended of Kuyt’s cross to finish for his first of the 09/10 season. The second was more fortuitous. With Hull all over the place defensively in injury time, the ball broke to Albert Reira in space in the box. The Spanish winger, who has been fairly ineffective of late, ran and drove in a shot which deflected off Babel, looping over a traumatised Myhill and into the net.
All in all a comfortable and convincing afternoons work for Rafa’s Reds. Hull City were poor and could well be in for a tough season. But with Chelsea suffering their first defeat of the campaign against Wigan Athletic, these six goals will further boost the teams confidence ahead of next weeks trip to Stamford Bridge.
Man of the Match
Only one candidate really! The Spanish striker was absolutely outstanding and well worth his hat trick. Really starting to find his top form after a relatively quiet start to the season. And with some big games coming up thats good news. Lucas also deserves a mention for another tidy and effective performance in midfield.