- Football | Liverpool crowned Premier League champions for the first time - June 26, 2020
- Football | Premier League restart talking points - June 23, 2020
- Football | Lewandowski seals Bundesliga title for Bayern - June 16, 2020
In the latest entry of our ‘Inside The Vault‘ series, which revisits memorable sporting moments, David Smith looks back at Fernando Torre’s first Liverpool goal.
“A new beautiful adventure begins for me and I hope that with work and effort I can be among the best players.”Fernando Torres upon signing for Liverpool, July 2007
There was considerable excitement around Anfield when Liverpool announced the capture of Fernando Torres for a club-record fee in July 2007.
The Reds signed ‘El Nino’, then 23, from his boyhood club Atlético Madrid on a six-year deal for a fee believed to be £26.5 million.
Torres had already established himself as one of the most talented forwards in Europe, becoming Atlético’s youngest ever captain at 19, and finishing as the La Liga club’s top scorer for five seasons in a row before swapping Madrid for Merseyside.
Liverpool were already building considerable momentum, having won the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006 in Rafael Benitez’ first two seasons in the dugout, before losing the Champions League final to AC Milan the month before Torres’ arrival.
The Spain international, who ha bagged three goals in the 2006 World Cup, was seen as the striker who could finally propel the Reds to their maiden Premier League title.
Here was a forward to get excited about; a fleet-footed Spaniard with a proven pedigree and boyband good looks.
Torres made his debut on the first day of the 2007/08 season as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park courtesy of a stunning late Steven Gerrard free kick.
The striker did not get on the scoresheet, but helped Dirk Kuty to force an own goal from Villa defender Martin Laursen, and looked menacing throughout.
There was much excitement, then, for Torres’ home debut, when the Reds met familiar foes Chelsea at Anfield in their second league match of the season.
The clubs – as well as Benitez and his opposite number Jose Mourinho – had already formed a fierce rivalry over the previous two or three seasons, heightened by a couple of ferocious Champions League semi-final clashes.
Another tempestuous battle awaited at Anfield on August 19th, 2007.
Torres was handed his first home start up front alongside Kuyt, and opened his Anfield account just 16 minutes into the match.
Jamie Carragher met a long Chelsea clearance with a header, before Kuyt competed for the breaking ball on the half-way line, heading the ball back towards his own goals.
Xabi Alonso met the high ball with a typically astute header, nodding the ball into the path of Gerrard just inside the Chelsea half.
Gerrard, who would soon form a lethal and telepathic partnership with Torres, picked out the Spaniard at the earliest opportunity, threading an excellent through ball down the left flank with the outside of his right foot.
The inch-perfect pass isolated Torres against Chelsea centre half Tal Ben-Haim on the edge of the 18-yard box.
It took ‘El Nino’ just three touches, all on his right foot, to find the back of the net.
Torres controlled the ball with one touch, before dragging the ball down Ben -outside with his second touch.
Torres ghosted past the Israel international, who could never count pace as one of his stronger assets, at devastating speed.
His third and final touch was perfect; the striker sliding a right-footed finish past the onrushing Petr Cech, his shot striking the inside of the far post on its way into the Anfield net.
Anfield erupted, and a delighted Torres wheeled away to the corner flag before sliding along his knees.
“He makes it look so easy,” Andy Gray gushed in the Sky Sports commentary box.
“It’s a sublime finish.”
Liverpool carried their 1-0 lead into the break, but Chelsea plundered an equalizer in the 62nd minute, albeit in controversial fashion.
Referee Rob Styles, who dished out eight yellow cards as tempers boiled over on the pitch, pointed to the penalty spot when he adjudged Steve Finnan to have fouled Florent Malouda inside the Liverpool box.
Replays suggested there was minimal (or perhaps zero) contact, but Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard made no mistake from 12 yards, slotting the ball past Pepe Reina to earn Mourinho’s men a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool would go on to finish fourth in the Premier League that season, with Chelsea finishing second behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Torres’ first goal was to be followed by many more in the ’07/08 season.
Ben-Haim was the first defender to fall victim to Torres’ pace and power, but far from the last.
That link up with Gerrard was a sign of things to come; the Liverpool skipper picking out the Spanish striker’s runs countless times over the next few seasons.
Torres finished the campaign with 33 goals in all competitions, with 24 of those coming in the league, making him the most prolific import in his debut Premier League season.
He bagged his first Liverpool hat-trick just over a month later in a 4-2 victory over Reading in the League Cup in September and became the first Liverpool player since 1946 to score a hat-trick in successive home matches in March 2008.
He was named the club’s player of the season and was also named in the PFA Team of the Season, but was beaten to the PFA Senior Player of the Year award by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Torres would carry his club form into the 2008 European Championships, scoring the winning goal against Germany in the final in Spain’s 1-0 victory and being named the match’s man of the match.
His scintillating performances saw him named in the Euros’ team of the tournament, the 2008 UEFA Team of the Year and the FIFA FIFPro World XI, while he also finished third in the rankings for both the 2008 Ballon d’Or and the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year.
His career at Liverpool would yield a total of 81 goals in just 142 appearances, but no trophies, with the Merseyside club missing out on the title to United in the 2008/09 season.
Torres then made a controversial £50 million move to Chelsea in January 2011, where he failed to rediscover his best form, but won a Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup.