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Speedy Fernando Torres hits ground running

Speedy Fernando Torres hits ground running

By Alan Smith
Last Updated: 9:05am BST 27/08/2007

It is understandable that most foreign signings take time to settle before producing the form described in the brochure.

Look at Didier Drogba, now one of the most complete centre-forwards around. His first season at Chelsea proved something of a mixed bag, characterised more by bouts of outrageous play-acting and dodgy first touches than any flashes of brilliance. Only after that initial period, once he had got to grips with the task in hand, did Drogba start to look worth his price tag.

Speedy Fernando Torres hits the ground running
Fernando Torres: is a worthy holder of the coveted No 9 shirt

Fernando Torres, however, appears to have bucked the trend. Liverpool's record signing has acclimatised to his new surroundings in record time. The demands of a different league, of getting to know new team-mates and of settling down in a strange country have not, it seems, affected his game.

Sharp at Aston Villa on the opening day, last week's beautifully taken goal against Chelsea confirmed his big-match temperament as much as his pace and finishing skills. More encouraging still, on Saturday Torres kept on scrapping throughout against Sunderland's Nyron Nosworthy and Paul McShane (two very forthright defenders) to give further notice that he can help turn Liverpool from title also-rans into genuine contenders.

He does, of course, still have some way to go before truly appreciating this league's requirements for success. Nobody grasps it all after a couple of games. That said, the 23-year-old looks more than capable of learning on his feet judging by events at the Stadium of Light.

In truth, he should have grabbed a couple of goals from the chances that came his way. In particular, a close-range diving header should have been buried, never mind Craig Gordon's agility in the home goal. Later, the Scotsman managed to deny the Spaniard again following a coruscating burst of acceleration from the halfway line that left the trailing Nosworthy and McShane hoping for the best.

Fernando Torres chart

That's the thing about Torres - he is frighteningly quick for a 6ft 1in target man who is strong in the air. Jamie Carragher goes as far as to say that Michael Owen would probably lose in a straight race.

And if that's a priceless asset in the modern game, so is the way Torres deploys that speed with clever positioning on the last line of defence. In fact, he rarely, if ever, got caught offside on Wearside. It's one thing having scorching pace, quite another using it well. Think back to last season and Craig Bellamy's time at Anfield: he single-handedly kept linesmen busy with his badly timed runs.

Not Torres. He might be nicknamed El Nino (The Kid) but there is nothing immature in his understanding of the game. Nothing wrong with his fighting qualities either. Liverpool's stubborn No 9 stood up to the scrap, plugging away gamely until some reward eventually turned up.

He had already set up Andriy Voronin, via some nifty footwork, with a great chance before he laid off the simple pass that his strike partner converted for the visitors' second. This partnership, incidentally, looks pretty useful. Dirk Kuyt, and especially Peter Crouch, face strong competition this season for a starting place.

Torres, however, can be confident of his, as long as he carries on in a similar vein. Rafa Benitez must be absolutely delighted, for he has achieved what all managers seek when splashing the cash to this extent. His new signing has lifted up the team to the next level. That's all anyone can ask at this early stage.


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