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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Saturday, 16 August 2008 19:23 UK

Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool

By Jonathan Stevenson

Fernando Torres
Torres continued his magical summer after winning Euro 2008 with Spain

Spanish striker Fernando Torres struck a brilliant late winner as Liverpool made hard work of beating Sunderland.

Torres collected a Xabi Alonso pass, turned into space and rifled home a sensational drive into Craig Gordon's bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.

Sunderland did not deserve to lose and Daryl Murphy headed their best chance straight at goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Gordon saved from Yossi Benayoun and debutant Robbie Keane unintentionally blocked Torres' shot before his winner.

After a turbulent couple of weeks for Liverpool which led to speculation in Saturday's newspapers boss Rafa Benitez might quit the club, it was a much-needed early season boost for the Reds.

Benitez has been frustrated over their failed attempts to sign Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and they could only draw 0-0 against Standard Liege on Wednesday in their Champions League third qualifying round first-leg match.

Keane annoyed with late goal

But Torres' brilliant late finish gives them the perfect start to the league season and takes the pressure off Benitez, who reiterated his commitment to the club before the game. With summer signing Keane making his league debut up front alongside Torres, much was expected from Liverpool's 46m strikeforce.

But Keane failed to sparkle throughout and he was taken off six minutes before Torres' late strike.

It was Sunderland who created the best chances in a first half devoid of great quality, with El-Hadji Diouf in lively form on his debut against his old employers.

Benitez was content with his side's win

Diouf latched on to Sami Hyypia's weak back header early on, but Jamie Carragher managed to avert the danger just in the nick of time.

Soon after, Diouf sent over a lovely cross from the left that was begging to be headed in, but Murphy could only nod straight at Reina.

Liverpool slowly began to assert themselves in midfield and as Steven Gerrard saw more of the ball, so their threat grew.

The Reds wanted a penalty when Benayoun was felled in the box by Pascal Chimbonda, but referee Alan Wiley had already blown for Nyron Nosworthy's trip on Gerrard outside the box and the captain's free-kick flew straight into the wall.

Sunderland began the second half better and Murphy scampered away down the left and put in a fine cross for Diouf, but the Senegalese failed to connect properly with his left-foot shot.

But Liverpool were enjoying more possession and despite their ineffective new forward partnership, they did begin to put concerted pressure on the hosts.

Benayoun forced Gordon to save low down to his right, before Keane got in the way of a Torres shot after Dirk Kuyt's effort had been deflected and saved by Gordon.

Alonso then tried an audacious shot from fully 60 yards that flew over Gordon's head and would have beaten the Black Cats keeper had it not been a foot wide of his left-hand post.

Just when it looked as though the game would peter out into a draw, up stepped Torres to turn and fire in from 25 yards to stun the home crowd.

  • Sunderland manager Roy Keane:
    "We tired in the last 15 to 20 minutes - which is something I should take responsibility for. We should have had some tougher games in pre-season.

    "For all the hard work, the number of goals scored in the last 15 minutes is huge - and the other 75 minutes goes out of the window.

    "It was just one moment - that's all we're talking about - but that's the beauty of the Premier League. I can't complain, because I've been on the other side of it."

  • Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
    "You could see the team was really focused. We want to concentrate on winning, and the best news for our supporters is to win games.

    "In the first half, they were attacking; the second half, we were on top and attacking - and continued until the end.

    "We had chances. Torres is a key player and he can change games. For the team, it's really important to have these sorts of players."

    Sunderland: Gordon, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Collins, Bardsley, Malbranque (Edwards 73), Tainio (Whitehead 57), Reid, Richardson, Diouf (Chopra 81), Murphy.
    Subs Not Used: Ward, Leadbitter, Higginbotham, Stokes.

    Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Kuyt, Gerrard, Plessis (Alonso 46), Benayoun (Aurelio 81), Keane (El Zhar 77), Torres.
    Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Skrtel.

    Booked: Arbeloa, El Zhar.

    Goals: Torres 83.

    Att: 43,259.

    Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard on 7.05 (on 90 minutes).

    Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

  • see also
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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