LONDON, February 7 – Fernando Torres suffered a dismal debut as Chelsea's £50 million striker was substituted following a lacklustre display in his new side's 1-0 defeat against his former club Liverpool on Sunday.
Torres was hauled off after just 66 minutes of his first Chelsea appearance and the Spain striker had even more reason to forget his Stamford Bridge bow when Liverpool’s Raul Meireles bagged the winner for his old team just moments after his premature exit.
The 26-year-old claims he had to join Chelsea because Liverpool are a club in transition with little chance of challenging for major honours.
On this evidence, Torres may come to regret his decision to demand a move.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish won the tactical battle with his Chelsea counterpart Carlo Ancelotti and defeat leaves the Blues, who are 10 points behind leaders Manchester United, with virtually no chance of retaining the Premier League title.
Dalglish’s side are now just six points behind Chelsea and it is not impossible that Torres could see his former team beat his new club to a place in the Champions League.
There were friendly greetings for Torres from his old colleagues before kick-off, although the Liverpool fans wasted little time giving him a rough ride as they unfurled a host of abusive banners with messages like "once a red, in our hearts you are dead" and "he who betrays will always walk alone".
Whistles and chants of "Judas" greeted his every touch, but Torres had a golden opportunity to silence those taunts in the second minute.
Maxi Rodriguez’s wayward pass gave Torres a clear sight of goal from the edge of the area but his hurried shot sailed high over the bar.
After playing a 4-3-3 formation for much of the season, Ancelotti tinkered with his tactics to accommodate Torres and opted to play the Spaniard alongside Didier Drogba, with Nicolas Anelka tucked in behind the front two.
However, with Liverpool playing three centre-backs there was little room for Torres to influence the game and he was crowded out whenever the ball came his way.
Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was unable to take one of Chelsea’s few chances when he glanced a header wide from Frank Lampard’s corner.
Torres briefly escaped his shackles with a clever run onto Drogba’s pass, only for Jamie Carragher to snuff out the danger with a superb sliding block.
After sitting back for long periods, Liverpool should have taken the lead when Steven Gerrard’s low cross found Rodriguez unmarked at the far post.
The Argentine midfielder looked certain to score yet somehow managed an astonishing miss as he scooped his close-range effort onto the bar.
Chelsea were showing signs of frustration and a careless Torres pass drew jeers of derision from the Liverpool fans before Petr Cech exchanged angry words with Ivanovic after the team-mates collided.
Torres was a completely anonymous figure. The Spaniard has been well below his best for much of this season and this was another strangely subdued display.
There was no obvious sign of any understanding between Torres and Drogba and Ancelotti had clearly seen enough.
The Blues boss decided to send on Salomon Kalou in place of Torres in the 66th minute, prompting a jubilant chorus of "you should have stayed at a big club" from Liverpool’s fans.
Michael Essien almost put Chelsea ahead moments later with a curling long-range effort, but it was Liverpool who snatched the lead thanks to a terrible piece of defending from the champions.
When Gerrard whipped over a low cross in the 69th minute, Cech and Ivanovic left the task of clearing to each other and Meireles punished their confusion by steering the loose ball into the net from close-range.
Ancelotti sent on David Luiz for his debut but it made no difference and Chelsea’s last hope was a rejected penalty appeal when Glen Johnson blocked off Ivanovic.