Torres strikes on his return for Liverpool

Spaniard nets winner as Reds edge Rovers 2-1 in a bruising encounter

Torres strikes on his return for Liverpool

 Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Blackburn Rovers. Reuters

Torres has endured an injury-interrupted season but the Spain striker made a telling contribution on Sunday as Rafael Benitez’s side maintained their push to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Keith Andrews scored a shock equaliser for Rovers from the penalty spot to cancel out Steven Gerrard’s 10th goal of the season before Torres struck in the 44th minute — his 13th Premier League goal of the season — to leave Liverpool sixth in the table, one point behind Tottenham and Manchester City.

The pressure on Benitez’s side to win had been increased by Tottenham’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool’s city rivals Everton earlier in the day.

Not even the presence of Torres could inspire his team-mates in the opening exchanges as Blackburn shot out of the blocks, the mid-table visitors going close to opening the scoring four times alone in the first 15 minutes.

Liverpool had recorded clean sheets in six of their previous seven outings but with Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano acting as emergency right-back and both Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos unavailable, the back four looked anything but solid.

The home team’s sluggish start was typified in the 16th minute when Lucas was caught in possession by Morten Gamst Pedersen, who threaded a dangerous pass to Mikola Kalinic inside the Liverpool penalty area.

But Liverpool fans breathed a sigh of relief after the Croatian striker was unable to find the target from an acute angle before Gerrard broke the deadlock with his side’s first real attack.

The England midfielder took his goal tally for the season into double figures after a clever move involving Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun. Gerrard lifted the atmosphere at a subdued Anfield with a neat finish after gliding past Christopher Samba.

Liverpool’s 4-0 win in this fixture last year was overshadowed when both managers became embroiled in a spat after Sam Allardyce took exception to a Benitez hand gesture he interpreted as signalling that the game was all over when Liverpool had taken a 2-0 lead.

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