In full flow, there is probably not a more graceful or, for defenders, terrifying sight in the Premier League right now than Fernando Torres in the final third of the pitch. With his poise and speed, and now a desire to use his upper-body strength, the Spaniard carries even more of a threat than previously against any team he plays, not just a Hull side with a glaringly inadequate defence, including an 18-year-old centre-back, Liam Cooper, making his League debut.
Torres's hat-trick, completed in 35 minutes, never required him, with the possible exception of the third goal, to do anything outlandish, for which he can thank his team-mates.
For the first goal it was Albert Riera who picked him out and for the second it was Yossi Benayoun. But on both those occasions Torres was also displaying his efficiency off the ball, making the runs and anticipating the passes that make him so hard to pin down. For the third goal, which killed off Hull's challenge, Torres had a little more work, but having stayed onside there was nothing Ibrahim Sonko or Boaz Myhill, in goal, could do to prevent the inevitable.
Rafael Benitez is not in the least bit surprised by what his £20 million man can do but he believes there is more. The Liverpool manager said: "The last three games he was really good, he's improving his work-rate, movement and mentality. I think he can do better. The mentality is the main thing. He's keen to learn and he will improve. How much depends on him."
In terms of a workout ahead of their trip to Italy to play Fiorentina in the Champions' League Benitez might have wished for a harder task, given they face arguably the most difficult game of the group phase on Tuesday. In terms of keeping up the pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, this was the perfect performance.
Phil Brown, the Hull manager, called his defenders' work "disgusting", meaning their second-half collapse. Hull actually came back at Liverpool after Torres had opened the scoring, but there was never the slightest chance of the Tigers causing the upset of last season. Last December, Brown's side took a two-goal lead before Liverpool came back for a point. Having also convincingly beaten Burnley at Anfield this season, there is no sign of the costly slip-ups of last year against the Premier League's lesser lights.
Torres's first goal here, and his sixth of the season, was as easy as they come after Emiliano Insua, a better left-back than Liverpool have had recently, passed to Riera. He cut it back and Torres, after sidestepping Sonko, found the far corner from 10 yards.
Hull found an answer three minutes later as Martin Skrtel headed the ball only as far as Geovanni, and the Brazilian volleyed past Jose Reina from 12 yards. That was not in the script but Torres remembered his lines just before the half-hour, beating challenges from Sonko and Myhill before finding the empty net. For his hat-trick after 47 minutes, the fourth of his Liverpool career, Torres ran on to Benayoun's pass and shot through Paul McShane's legs. Any August lethargy has clearly left the forward's legs. His inevitable substitution, with Italy in mind, was to a standing ovation.
When Torres shines, Steven Gerrard is rarely far behind. Despite not setting up any goals, the captain still got on the scoresheet, albeit in fortuitous fashion. Hitting a first-time cross intended for Dirk Kuyt, he put enough curl on the ball to find the top corner.
On a day when nothing could go wrong for the hosts, Kuyt found the unmarked Ryan Babel, on as a substitute, who tapped in from six yards with two minutes remaining. In injury time, Liverpool had their sixth and Babel his second in comical fashion, after Riera's low drive deflected off the Dutchman's heel.
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Torres
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content