Liverpool overcome Chelsea on Torres debut
Liverpool spoiled Fernando Torres's Chelsea debut on Sunday, winning 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, dpa reported.
Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea on deadline day, but was involved only occasionally - touching the ball only 29 times, fewer than any other outfield player - and was substituted after 66 minutes.
It was hard to avoid the thought that the attempt to accommodate him, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka unbalanced Chelsea.
The win was a fourth in a row for Liverpool, who climb to sixth, six points behind Chelsea in the fourth Champions League qualification slot.
Chelsea have a game in hand on Liverpool, but are 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United.
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher acknowledged the Torres factor had given the game additional piquancy.
"It's a difficult place to come and it's a great result," he said. "There as a lot of speculation before the game which hypes it up which maybe makes it a little bit more special
"It's three points. We're on a good run now and we want to keep it going. We've got to focus on our own team and do our own jobs and that's what we did."
Whoever did better out of Monday's wheeling and dealing, it was Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish who won the tactical battle over Carlo Ancelotti.
Chelsea struggled to break down Liverpool's 3-5-1-1. Anelka, so effective at the point of a midfield diamond against Sunderland on Wednesday, was squeezed out by Lucas Leiva, and was barely involved.
"Our performance was not good enough to win the game," said Ancelotti. "They defended very well.
"It was difficult to find the space. We played from the back too slow."
There were fleeting signs of an understanding between Torres and Drogba, and the Ivorian laid in the Spaniard on the half-hour.
His shot, though, was blocked by a superb challenge from Carragher.
Although Liverpool were able to get men behind the ball, they also broke dangerously, and it was notable that their wing-backs, Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson, were able to prevent Chelsea's full-backs, Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole, from getting forward, denying Chelsea attacking width.
Liverpool had the best opportunity of a largely chance-free first half, Steven Gerrard cutting in from the left side of the box and driving the ball across goal to the back post where Maxi Rodriguez was defeated by a bobble, and fired against the bar with the goal gaping.
Anelka and Michael Essien went close with speculative long-range efforts, but the deadlock was broken 24 minutes into the second half by Liverpool.
Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic had had a furious row in the first half when both went for the same ball, but when Gerrard crossed, both left it, and Meireles did well to get over an awkwardly bouncing ball and guide his shot into a partially-guarded net.
"You don't get anything in football without working hard," said Dalglish. "We've kept four clean sheets in a row and four wins and that's a great compliment to the players.
"They (Liverpool) defended brilliantly. I don't think any of their (Chelsea's) forwards had a day they'd describe as a happy one."
Birmingham City climbed out of the relegation zone as Nikola Zigic's goal gave them a 1-0 win over West Ham United.
The giant Serbian forward headed in Sebastian Larsson's free-kick after 65 minutes.
West Ham sank to the bottom of the table, and lost centre-backs Paul Tomkins and Matthew Upson to injury.
"With the results yesterday - just look at the Wolves-Man U game - the league's unreal this year," Birmingham defender Roger Johnson said.
"It was a massive game, a six-pointer, and we came out with a scrappy goal and won the game.
"We were dying on our feet at the end and the ball kept coming back but thankfully we got the three points, we nicked a 1-0 and a clean sheet - lovely."