Premier League – Torres downs Chelsea with late brace
Both sides were on 48 points before the match, five points behind United having played the same number of matches.
The match was heading for a goalless draw with Liverpool unable to capitalise on their territorial possession and Robbie Keane, left out of the squad, watching in the stands.
The first shot on goal arrived on 11 minutes, Alonso shooting towards the top corner from outside the penalty area and forcing a fingertip save from Cech.
Riley looked to keep a lid on the flying tackles by carding Javier Mascherano and Cole in quick succession, and the pace of the game did indeed slow somewhat following the bookings.
Steven Gerrard was again the main catalyst for home attacks, but the Chelsea defence denied him and Torres space inside the area. However they rarely broke out themselves, with Nicolas Anelka a solitary figure up front ahead of Salomon Kalou, with Didier Drogba left on the bench.
Albert Riera brought another save out of Cech before half-time as the shot-stopper was mainly concerned with crosses and mopping up behind his deep-lying defensive line.
Alonso heated things back up immediately after the restart with a studs-up tackle on Jon Obi Mikel, who minutes later followed him into the book for a scything challenge on Fabio Aurelio as he hared down the touchline.
Alvaro Arbeloa found a way through when, having attacked the by-line and cut back to the industrious Dirk Kuyt, the ball dropped again to the Spaniard and his shot to the near post was saved low by Cech.
Kuyt had looked to shoot first-time but was hit with a tough tackle by England captain Terry just inside the box. It was a risky one and the home fans wanted a penalty, but Riley thought the centre-half had made contact with the ball as well as the man.
Four minutes later Terry was enraged to see the red card brandished at team-mate Lampard, who had looked caged by the defensive tactics employed by Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Alonso almost made the breakthrough when his long-range effort struck visiting defender Alex and looped down on to the crossbar, Cech leaping to knock the ball behind as it came back down.
Before Torres’s timely strikes ‘Pool’s best chance of a winner seemed to be Benayoun, on for Riera with 16 minutes left. Cech tipped away one strike after he came inside on to his right foot while a volley from 18 yards dipped on to the roof of the net.
The introduction of Deco and Drogba before that had little effect for Chelsea, who looked like a team who ought to be content with a Champions League place come the end of the season.
Torres kept hopes at Anfield alive after their recent stutters with a wonderful finish after Gerrard had fed Aurelio having exchanged passes with Kuyt. His seventh of the season was his first notched at home.
His eighth of the campaign was simply the icing on the cake in front of the suddenly jubilant supporters; he left to a standing ovation seconds before the full-time whistle.