Liverpool have last laugh over Torres

LONDON - Barracked by his former fans and wasteful in front of goal, new Chelsea striker Fernando Torres endured a forgettable debut on Sunday as his old club Liverpool had the last laugh with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

An Anfield hero until six days ago when he moved south for a reported 50 million pounds, Torres was still loosening his boots after being substituted when Raul Meireles scored to earn the visitors a Premier League victory they welcomed like a European Cup final win.

It was not so much the fact that Spain striker Torres dared to leave Liverpool that so incensed the fans, but his subsequent explanation of his reasons, the most incendiary being the claim that he wanted to move to a big club to win trophies.

That helped produce a cup-tie atmosphere in west London and the travelling fans were not about to let Torres off lightly.

One held up a hastily-scrawled banner reading: "18 titles, five European Cups - is Chelsea a bigger club?" while another threw a Liverpool number nine shirt bearing his name - formerly the Premier League's top seller - on to the pitch.

Monday's headlines might have been very different had he taken a good opportunity presented by a wayward Maxi Rodriguez pass 90 seconds into the match but he blazed high and wide - to an explosion of red derision.

After 31 minutes Torres was through again but this time his shot was blocked by an inspired Jamie Carragher in his first game since dislocating his shoulder in November.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti paired Torres and Didier Drogba up front, with Nicolas Anelka just behind them, but the trio were kept at bay by Liverpool's three centre backs.

Torres was the one to make way after 66 minutes, replaced by Salomon Kalou to ironic cheers from the visitors.

Manager Kenny Dalglish, who has overseen the club's rise from 12th to sixth in the standings in a few short weeks, refused to be drawn on the performance of his departed striker.

"The most important people are those who are at this club, it always has been that way and they are the only ones I'm interested in," he told reporters.

Dalglish said Torres's comments had had absolutely no role in motivating him or his players.

"I'm not going to talk about another club's players or speculate about where we might finish in the league - we will not look beyond the next game," he said.

Ancelotti said he was hugely disappointed to have blown the chance of closing the gap on Manchester United after the leaders lost to bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

He was not about to blame Torres, however, or his decision to play all three of his forwards, for the defeat that left the champions still 10 points behind and in fourth place.

"He did a good job; playing the three forwards was not the problem," he said. "Liverpool defended very well with three centre backs and we didn't have the right solution to attack them. But that was because we were slow from the back.

"Torres was very enthusiastic, very confident and excited but he's had a very busy week so it was right to take him off."

Ancelotti said he would stick with using all three forwards against Fulham in their next game. "They have fantastic quality and the shape was good today," he said.

"We have to give him time to adjust and he'll do it."