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Controversial penalty deny Liverpool

sports Updated: Aug 21, 2007 13:25 IST

AFP
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Fernando Torres marked his first appearance at Anfield with an impressive debut goal for Liverpool but it was not enough to earn his club all three points as referee Rob Styles handed Chelsea a controversial second-half penalty in Sunday's 1-1 draw.

Liverpool's record 26.5 million-pound Spanish striker had made a dream start to his home career but Styles harshly judged that Steve Finnan had pushed over Florent Malouda as he attempted to meet Shaun Wright-Phillips' 61st minute cross.

Frank Lampard needed no second invitation to convincingly equalise from the spot.

To add to Styles' unpopularity, in the eyes of Liverpool fans, he also appeared to book Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien for a second time midway through the second half without brandishing the red card that should have automatically followed.

Under the watchful eye of England manager Steve McClaren, Steven Gerrard made light of the fractured toe that will almost certainly exclude him from playing for his country against Germany in midweek by setting up Torres' debut goal in the 16th minute.

The Liverpool captain gathered Xabi Alonso's tidy header and sent Torres chasing away down the right with a superb pass.

It still appeared that Chelsea defender Tal Ben-Haim would deal with the danger but the Spaniard showed an electrifying example of his pace and power to surge away from his marker and beat Peter Cech with a perfect right-foot finish.

The game had already been nicely set up by Manchester United's early afternoon defeat at Manchester City, a result greeted pre-match with great enthusiasm by both sets of supporters.

The early goal merely served to add to the intensity of a fixture that has become one of the set-piece occasions in the English football calendar.

After going a goal behind, Chelsea's midfield began to exert a degree of control.

Alonso's foul on Malouda gave Liverpool an anxious moment at the midway point of the first half but Didier Drogba's free-kick was deflected harmlessly behind.

Salomon Kalou appeared to have a superb shooting opportunity but took one touch too many and was halted by Gerrard's superb sliding tackle and Wright-Phillips sped past Alvaro Arbeloa a little too easily for comfort before his cross was headed over by Drogba.

For the third time in as many games this season, Chelsea found themselves a goal down but their spirited fightback raised the temperature of the contest yet further.

Styles did little to endear himself to the Anfield faithful as he yellow-carded Kuyt, Jermaine Pennant and Gerrard in quick succession, the Liverpool trio joining Essien and, later, Ashley Cole, Lampard and John Terry in the book.

Chelsea's improved play continued after the restart, Lampard's early corner being flicked on by substitute Claudio Pizarro for John Obi Mikel whose far post header flew over the bar before another dangerous right-wing run by Wright-Phillips ended with a centre which Pizarro, reaching at full stretch, could only head wide.

At the other end, Liverpool were slowly stringing together some more promising moves with Pennant reaching the by-line just before the hour and picking out Alonso on the edge of the area only for the Spaniard to send his strike disappointingly off target.

However, the penalty altered the complexion of the game with Chelsea, possibly, content to settle for a valuable away point.

They might not have emerged with that had Riise's spectacular volley, from Pennant's 67th minute pull-back, found its mark.

The last chances of an entertaining game fell to Kuyt, who rose to meet Finnan's right-wing cross but steered his effort inches over the crossbar, and substitute Ryan Babel who unleashed a ferocious long-range drive into the side-netting.