Fernando Torres endured a miserable Chelsea debut when his old club Liverpool inflicted a damaging 1-0 home defeat on the English champions on Sunday.
The Spanish striker was mercilessly jeered by his former fans whose joy was completed by a 69th-minute strike from Raul Meireles that dashed Chelsea’s hopes of closing the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United.
Torres, who joined Chelsea last week in a British record deal, had two early chances, but faded before being substituted after 66 minutes to the delight of the traveling supporters.
“He did a good job,” Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said of his ￡50 million (US$81 million) striker. “Liverpool defended very well with three centerbacks and we didn’t have the right solution to attack. Torres was very enthusiastic, very confident and excited, but he’s had a very busy week, so it was right to take him off.”
Liverpool defended superbly throughout to record their fourth successive victory and clean sheet under new manager Kenny Dalglish.
Liverpool moved up to sixth on 38 points and, just weeks after flirting with the relegation zone, are eyeing European qualification.
The Reds’ new-found solidity was evident in a well-drilled defensive performance.
Jamie Carragher, in his first match since November, played as one of three centerbacks in a bid to counter Chelsea’s three-pronged attack, with Torres and Didier Drogba leading the line, while Nicolas Anelka played in a supporting role.
Torres was center stage and did have a chance to make an instant impact when a wayward Maxi Rodriguez pass sent him through after 90 seconds, but he shot wildly over the bar.
A typically determined sliding block by Carragher foiled the Spaniard when Drogba sent him clear and Rodriguez side-footed against the bar from point-blank range.
Chelsea, recently back to winning ways after a poor run of form that dropped them down the league table, did not look comfortable trying to accommodate their three front men and Liverpool grew in confidence in the second half.
Torres, a peripheral figure after the break, was taken off and given a raucous send-off by the visiting supporters.
They were shouting even louder when Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic, who had exchanged expletives during an earlier mix-up, left a Steven Gerrard cross to each other and Meireles reacted sharply to hook it into the net.
Chelsea piled bodies forward, but other than long-range shots by Anelka and Michael Essien they rarely troubled Pepe Reina.
It was a glorious opportunity missed to close the gap on the leaders and their chances of retaining the title look faint following their seventh defeat of the campaign.
“It’s always difficult coming here and this is a great result,” Carragher said. “There was a lot of speculation before the game and that might have made it even more special. Players come and go. Fernando is one of the best strikers in world and I’m sure he will prove that at Chelsea, but he is not with us now. We have to focus on ourselves and our own jobs.”
In Sunday’s other Premier League match, Birmingham City won 1-0 at fellow strugglers West Ham United, who slipped to the foot of the standings on goal-difference.