x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Real caught in a Torres whirlwind

From the moment Fernando Torres stepped out to face Real Madrid, he was a man possessed.

The Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, left, celebrates with a delighted Fernando Torres after his penalty to make it to 2-0 against Real Madrid.
The Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, left, celebrates with a delighted Fernando Torres after his penalty to make it to 2-0 against Real Madrid.

LIVERPOOL // From the moment Fernando Torres stepped out to face Real Madrid, he was a man possessed. His Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard revealed the striker was "pumped up" beforehand for the Anfield encounter and never relented. This was more than just the return leg of a crucial Champions League last 16 tie - it was personal, and it showed.

For most of his footballing career wearing the red and white of city rivals Atletico, Real were the team he loved to hate. Now wearing the red of Liverpool, it was like another derby occasion on Tuesday night and an inspired Torres hunted, harried and hurt Real. The nine-times European Cup winners were left red-faced, beaten 4-0 by a perfectly tuned Merseyside machine to bow out with a 5-0 aggregate loss.

Torres tapped in the first, defying any pain in the ankle that had left him on the sidelines for the last two games. He said: "I am very proud. I am proud at the performance of the team and the performance of the fans. We showed Real Madrid that this is Anfield and that Liverpool can win against any team here." A breathless, high-tempo gameplan ran Real ragged and the chances came thick and fast. Iker Casillas, in the Real goal, defied them until Gerrard scored a dubious penalty and then netted a fine volley for his second goal - and seventh of this Champions League campaign.

Andrea Dossena hit a late fourth, rounding off a stunning team performance, which Gerrard - magnificent in his 100th European game - described as "awesome". On this showing, they should fear no one in the Champions League. If they can repeat this performance at the leaders Manchester United on Saturday, the Premier League title race will stay alive. Torres, whose side are seven points behind, said: "That is a massive game. I hope to win that and have more chances in the league. We know it's very important to win there, if not they will be many points ahead.

"I feel good and I think I will be 100 per cent for Saturday." Real are hurting. It is the fifth year they have not progressed beyond this stage in Europe, a sad statistic considering their famed history. According to their sporting director, Pedrag Mijatovic, "it was like they did not exist" at Anfield. It was embarrassing and the Real players asked for forgiveness afterwards with the Spanish league their target, despite being six points behind Barcelona.

Raul, their legendary striker, said: "Losing 4-0 in the Champions League is painful, but we must pick ourselves up. "This is a cycle and we have to accept it. Real Madrid hadn't won this competition in 32 years, then managed to always reach the semi finals. It is time to suffer now, but we must continue working. We still have the Primera League and must try to win it. We will not give up." akhan@thenational.ae