Torres double is too much for Hammers

West Ham Utd 2 Liverpool 3 WHEN YOU are playing against the big four there are two things that you simply cannot afford to do – give the ball away, and miss your chances, writes DAVE EVANS. West Ham were guilty of both against Liverpool on Saturday and d

West Ham Utd 2 Liverpool 3

WHEN YOU are playing against the big four there are two things that you simply cannot afford to do - give the ball away, and miss your chances, writes DAVE EVANS.

West Ham were guilty of both against Liverpool on Saturday and despite an excellent, battling performance that is why they found themselves without a point to show for their efforts.

It could have been so much worse. When Valon Behrami limped off after 28 minutes, West Ham were a goal down and had already lost Matty Upson through injury and many felt that a thumping similar to the one they suffered against Liverpool last season was on the cards.

It was full credit to the Hammers that they managed to bounce back from that early disaster, but in the end it was not quite enough.

The difference between the two teams was Fernando Torres, perhaps the best striker in the world at the moment.

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The Hammers kept Steven Gerrard fairly quiet, but they couldn't do the same with the Spaniard. He grabbed Liverpool's first with a clinical finish, and then when the game seemed to be drifting towards a draw, he headed his side to victory with 15 minutes left.

"Torres is a great striker, so you have to consider the fact that it is not easy to mark him," said West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola afterwards. "It is a pity. It is not easy to defend against strikers like him, especially when they are having a good day."

This pulsating thriller of a game exploded as early as the second minute and should have seen West Ham grab the lead. Jamie Carragher, so often full of mistakes against the Hammers, was expertly dispossessed by Zavon Hines and the young striker sprinted towards goal, and beat Pepe Reina with his shot, only to see it rattle against the post.

The miss didn't seem to affect Hines' confidence, as he went close again on 15 minutes when Julien Faubert's low cross fell to him in the area, but Liverpool were having some success at the other end too.

Torres found Yossi Benayoun in the box and his shot was superbly saved by Robert Green, while Emiliano Insua and Torres both shot inches wide as West Ham surrendered possession.

The Hammers were certainly holding their own with Alessandro Diamanti impressing when he was on the ball, but he, like many of the team, were guilty of giving the ball away. The warnings were there, but not heeded and on 20 minutes Liverpool grabbed the lead.

The ball was lost in midfield and when it came to Torres on the left edge of the box, the Spaniard went past James Tomkins as if he was set in concrete, before prodding the ball high over the oncoming Green and into the roof of the net.

It was a stunning goal, and to make matters worse, Upson was injured as Torres struck and had to be replaced by Danny Gabbidon, before Behrami went off just a couple of minutes later.

However, West Ham showed their character and were level just before the half hour. Hines showed his pace and strength to muscle his way past Carragher into the box, and when the hapless Scouser leant into him, the penalty decision was inevitable.

"It was decided beforehand that Diamanti would take the penalties," revealed Zola who relieved Mark Noble of the task after he missed his last two kicks.

So what did he think of Diamanti's kick? "Very scary!" he said and he wasn't wrong.

Diamanti ran up against the man who had denied West Ham in the FA Cup Final from the spot, slipped as he went to kick it and then somehow floated the ball into the middle of the net.

It was little surprise that his celebrations were more of relief than delight, but parity was only restored for just over 10 minutes. Gerrard got up above substitute Radoslav Kovac to meet Bena--youn's corner and head towards goal, where Dirk Kuyt was able to poke it in at the far post, where there was an absence of a Hammer on the line.

It was a bad defensive error, but one that Liverpool mat-ched just three minutes later. Diamanti's curling free-kick deflected off the wall for a corner and when Noble swung the ball in, Carlton Cole got up among, rather than above, the defenders to nod into the far corner, which once more was being guarded by the invisible man.

ESPN must have been rubbing their hands at their game selection and expecting a whole lot more excitement after the break, but in reality the second half was not a patch on the first.

Diamanti tested Reina with a curling corner which the keeper was forced to desperately tip wide as he back-pedalled, but the Italian faded with the pace of the game and was eventually replaced by Kieron Dyer.

Perhaps inevitably it was Liverpool who found that little bit extra and it came on 75 minutes with the simplest of goals. Ryan Babel got down the right and, when he crossed, Torres rose highest to nod the ball home.

Two minutes later, Noble's deep cross found Cole who nodded it back for Kovac to head goalwards. His effort was superbly saved by Reina and with that went their last chance of earning the draw they definitely deserved.

The result meant that it was West Ham's worst start for seven years, but Zola was not perturbed by that.

"I don't work that way," he said, after being asked if he was worried by his team's points tally. "I see what the players do on the pitch, and this performance was very encouraging.

"I think we were unfortunate not to pick up points, but the rest is encouraging. I'm sure we will get better and it won't be long until we do."

He might be right. He certainly was last year after he had been through a rough time, but with Manchester City and Arsenal to play in two of their next four matches, the need to win the other two against Fulham and Stoke City becomes more acute and the way those two teams are playing at the moment, you certainly couldn't guarantee beating either.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Tomkins, Upson (Gabbidon 25), Noble, Parker, Behrami (Kovac 28), Diamanti (Dyer 66), Hines, Cole. Unused subs: Kurucz, Spector, Nouble, Payne.

Att: 34,658. Referee: Andre Marriner (7).