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Fernando Torres shows class with hat-trick

Fernando Torres shows class with hat-trick

By Martin Smith
Last Updated: 1:49am BST 26/09/2007

Reading (1) 2 Liverpool (1) 4

Fernando Torres walked off the pitch at the Madejski Stadium last night with the match ball under his arm, the hat-trick that knocked Reading out of the Carling Cup an eloquent response to his manager's decision to leave him out of the starting XI for Liverpool's last two Premiership matches.

Torres doubled his tally of goals in a Liverpool shirt in 36 second-half minutes to underline the predatory skills that persuaded Rafa Benitez to part with £20 million for his services in the summer.

Fernando Torres shows class with hat-trick
Roaring success: Fernando Torres ran Reading's defence ragged

"He shows he can kill defenders," Benitez said after the game. "The difference was obviously £20?million," his opposite number, Steve Coppell, said ruefully. "You want to play against the best players and you make your reputation by stopping these players. He gained confidence with each goal and became more expressive."

Even so, Torres is not certain of making the starting XI at Wigan on Saturday. "Nothing is guaranteed, nothing," Benitez said. "I have to do the best for my team," adding that the confused young Spaniard could play "if he's not injured and continues to train well".

Asked why Torres was not an automatic selection – he has started just six of his nine games for Liverpool – Benitez said enigmatically: "It's about space." When he elaborated, the manager suggested that there were teams, like Portsmouth and Birmingham in recent weeks, who would not allow him the sort of space afforded last night.

Coppell was asked if Torres would have a regular place in Reading's team. "It would be nice to have the problem," he said.

Coppell felt Torres had been pretty anonymous in the first half; it took him less than five minutes of the second to put his seal on the third-round tie, putting Liverpool ahead for the second time. Andre Bikey lost the ball to Yossi Benayoun near the halfway line, and it was quickly transferred forward where Torres had stolen a crucial half-yard on Michael Duberry before slotting home from 15 yards.

His second, after Reading had equalised again, came courtesy of substitute John Arne Riise, who twisted inside Ulises de la Cruz on the dead-ball line, cutting the ball back for Torres to sweep into the net.

The one that won him ownership of the match ball came four minutes from time, Steven Gerrard's ball through a disintegrating defence allowed him to round Adam Federici and roll it into an empty net.

Bikey seemed to have his measure in the first 45 minutes, some of his challenges rough and ready, but could not get near him in the second.

Benayoun had set the ball rolling midway through the first half, pouncing on Bikey's half-cleared header, and he might have finished the game off in the final minutes, but shot too close to Federici.

Bobby Convey equalised with a volley from just inside the area, after Momo Sissoko put John Halls' corner straight to him. There was more than a suggestion of offside about that goal, and again for Halls' second equaliser, at the second attempt after Charles Itandje flapped at Nicky Shorey's corner.

However, the evening was all about Torres. "He is going to set the game alight in this division," Coppell said. But only if he is given the opportunity.

Match details

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; De la Cruz, Bikey, Duberry, Shorey; Halls (Hunt 80), Harper, Fae, Convey (Kitson 80); Lita, Long (Henry 80). Subs: Hahnemann (g), Cisse. Booked: Bikey, Duberry, Fae. Liverpool (4-4-2): Itandje; Finnan, Arbeloa, Carragher, Aurelio (Riise 69); Benayoun, Sissoko, Leiva (Hobbs 90), Leto; Crouch (Gerrard 77), Torres. Subs: Martin (g), Putterill. Booked: Leiva. Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).


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