Benitez hails ‘on-fire’ Torres

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez hailed Fernando Torres as ”on fire” after the Spanish striker hit his second successive Anfield hat-trick to lift his club into fourth spot on the Premier League table on Wednesday.

Torres, who now has 24 goals since his £21-million arrival before the start of this season, sentenced West Ham to their second 4-0 defeat in four days after a sizzling performance by Benitez’s side.

The Liverpool manager believes Torres is in the best form of his life after scoring six times in his last two Anfield appearances.

”He is on fire at the moment,” said Benitez, who revealed he was thinking of bringing Torres off moments before he clinched his third hat-trick for the club.

”I was actually talking with Peter Crouch and told him to be ready in a few minutes. Maybe Torres was inspired.”

Benitez also let slip that he had almost decided against playing Torres after the player had complained of feeling unwell on the eve of the match.

”He had a small problem with sickness this morning [Wednesday],” said the manager. ”I thought about resting him but he was okay.” Benitez is confident Liverpool can remain in fourth spot for the remaining 10 games of the Premier League season.

They are level on points with arch-rivals Everton, who they entertain on March 30, but are above them by virtue of a superior goal difference.

”We started the season really well, but at this crucial period of the season we are playing with confidence,” added Benitez.

”The team is working really hard. We must win against Newcastle and then we can go to Inter Milan in the Champions League next week with a lot of confidence.”

Liverpool finished the game with 10 men after Javier Mascherano left the pitch in the dying moments with a dead leg.

Benitez said he expected the midfielder to be available for the weekend.

Defeated 4-0 by Chelsea last Saturday, West Ham manager Alan Curbishley has now seen his side leak eight goals in two games. They face a tough game against League Cup winners Tottenham on Sunday.

”We made no impression on Liverpool at all,” said Curbishley as he conducted an urgent inquest into his side’s latest pounding.

”I knew games against Chelsea and Liverpool would be tough, but I didn’t expect this.

”It’s the first time they have let themselves down this season. The last two performances just haven’t been good enough.

”We’ve just had a meeting in the dressing room. It wasn’t a crisis meeting but we’ve just played two Champions League clubs and have not made any impression on them.”

All three goals of Torres’s showcased his lethal touch in front of goal, an inherent awareness of the goalscorer’s art, and his raw pace and power.

The first came after a Dirk Kuyt cross, Torres reacting before Anton Ferdinand could make a clearance and drilling the ball past Robert Green from 12 yards.

The second, which killed the game as a contest, came shortly after the interval, a simple header from another Kuyt cross.

Torres completed his hat-trick with nine minutes left and two minutes later Gerrard completed the rout with a drive from 25 yards. — Sapa-AFP

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