Fernando Torres became the latest victim of Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool renaissance last night after the Spaniard's eagerly awaited debut as a £50m Chelsea player ended in deflation and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of former team-mates.
The striker's first appearance for his new club veered horribly off script as he was snuffed out by the impressive Jamie Carragher and substituted just after the hour. The travelling support had barracked his every touch but by the end were too busy rejoicing in Raul Meireles's fourth goal in five matches that confirmed the recovery instigated by Dalglish since he took over last month.
This success was achieved without the input of Liverpool's own new arrivals, the £23m Luis Suárez or the £35m Andy Carroll, with Carragher subsequently leading the calls for Dalglish to be handed the job full-time. "I have great respect for Roy, so I'd never say 'things have changed for the better' and that type of stuff," said Carragher. "As a club and as players we didn't do enough to help the manager out – the performances weren't good enough and obviously the managers take the brunt of it.
"But things have improved now and Kenny coming has got everyone onside. It's not our decision if he gets the job. That's up to the club owners. But for everyone, especially me and Stevie [Gerrard], he's a hero to us. The results are obviously going very well. If you're asking me, obviously I'd love him to be the manager."
By inflicting Chelsea's fifth defeat here in 132 league games Liverpool registered a fourth successive victory without conceding a goal, to rise to sixth place, only six points from the fourth Champions League qualification place. They can now aspire to returning to Europe's elite competition, potentially at Chelsea's expense.
"Good players come and go," said Carragher when asked about his former team-mate. "We've played against plenty of players [who have left] – we used to play against Robbie Fowler when he went to Leeds – and it's not easy. You know the quality they have and Fernando is one of the best strikers in the world. I'm sure he'll prove that for Chelsea but he's not with us now. We have to focus on our own team."
Dalglish was just as reluctant to talk about the departed Spaniard, whose transfer had so dominated the week and the build-up to this occasion. "I'm not here to talk about someone else's players but I don't think any of their forwards will be too happy about the game they had," he said. "We signed two fantastic players in Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll and we are looking forward to seeing them play, if they can get in the team. The way the boys played today it won't be easy for either of them.
"The Torres situation wasn't an incentive for us. Whatever someone else wants to do with their life, that's their choice. We've said all we have to say on the lad. I came here to win three points. If Carlo Ancelotti had been playing up front for Chelsea, I'd have still wanted the three points. The personnel and the opposition aren't important to me. We just look at ourselves and sixth place is a lot healthier than 12th, where we started.
"Now that's four clean sheets and 12 points from four games, so everyone connected to Liverpool is very happy. As for my role long-term, I'm only doing what I said I would do: come in and help. I won't ever stand in the way of progress at this club. I've not had a conversation with the owners and, until there's something else to discuss, that's where we are."
Ancelotti was left to reflect on a damaging defeat, with an opportunity to eat into the 10-point deficit from Manchester United at the top passed up. Chelsea have now lost as many games this season as Birmingham City, a side who hoisted themselves out of the relegation zone only with victory at West Ham yesterday, and the manager was left complaining that Glen Johnson's late barge on Branislav Ivanovic went unpunished.
"We're disappointed because we had an opportunity to close the gap but now we're still the same distance from United," said Ancelotti. "But we have to keep going. Maybe now we have less possibility to close that gap but we have to try again. We still have to try to fight again for the title.
"The right result today would have been a draw but this is football. Liverpool were strong defensively and we were not able to find the solution and we played too slowly from the back. But we need to give Torres time to adjust. He has experience, he has confidence and was enthusiastic to play today. In him and David Luiz we have bought players with fantastic abilities who will be the future of this club."