Liverpool have the last laugh

Liverpool have the last laugh

Liverpool players swamp Raul Meireles (second from right) after he scored the winner against Chelsea during their EPL clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. AP

The Spanish striker was mercilessly jeered by his former fans whose joy was completed by a 69th-minute strike from Raul Meireles which dashed Chelsea's hopes of closing the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Torres, who joined Chelsea last week in a British record deal, had two early chances but faded before being substituted after 66 minutes to the delight of the travelling supporters.

Liverpool defended superbly throughout to record their fourth successive victory and clean sheet under new manager Kenny Dalglish.

Manchester United, beaten in the league for the first time this season by bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, top the standings on 54 points. Arsenal, who blew a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 at Newcastle United, are second on 50.

Manchester City are third on 49 with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur on 44. Liverpool moved up to sixth on 38 and, just weeks after flirting with the relegation zone, are eyeing European qualification.

Liverpool's new-found solidity was evident in a well-drilled defensive performance. Jamie Carragher, in his first match since November, played as one of three centre backs in a bid to counter Chelsea's three-pronged attack, with Torres and Didier Drogba leading the line and Nicolas Anelka in a supporting role.

Torres was centre stage and did have a chance to make an instant impact when a wayward Maxi Rodriguez pass sent him through after 90 seconds but he shot wildly over the bar.

A typically determined sliding block by Carragher foiled the Spaniard when Drogba sent him clear and Rodriguez sidefooted against the bar from point-blank range.

Chelsea, recently back to winning ways after a poor run of form which dropped them down the league table, did not look comfortable trying to accommodate their three front men and Liverpool grew in confidence in the second half.

Torres, a peripheral figure after the break, was taken off and given a raucous send-off by the visiting supporters.

They were shouting even louder when Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic, who had exchanged expletives during an earlier mix-up, left a Steven Gerrard cross to each other and Meireles reacted sharply to hook it into the net.

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