Fernando Torres, Mo Salah and the oddities of Liverpool hat-tricks
All football fans love a hat-trick.
They may not quite be a nine-darter or a 147 at snooker, but there’s something just as pleasingly complete about them.
For a striker, a hat-trick is the ultimate 90-minute’s work. It’s been your day. You even get to keep the ball you’ve done that well.
That’s better than snooker, isn’t it? Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t get to keep the table.
I have hat-tricks on the brain due to the retirement of Fernando Torres. The Spaniard once scored back-to-back trebles in successive Liverpool home games in 2008, slamming in all three during a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough before a second triple whammy 10 days later in a 4-0 cruise over West Ham.
It was the first time a Reds striker had managed hat-tricks in back-to-back home games since 1946.
Reds boss Rafa Benitez must have been delighted with his young compatriot. Or so you’d think…
Torres told Spanish newspaper Marca several years later: “I remember that I was playing phenomenally, I had just scored three goals and everyone signed the ball.
“Everyone put, ‘You’re the best,’ or, ‘Congratulations,’ things like that. Rafa Benitez put, ‘Today you lost the ball eight times.'”
Good old Rafa. Never a man to let anyone rest on their laurels.
Another thing about hat-tricks is that they can skew perception.
As a Liverpool fan, I fondly recall Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen going home with the match ball on numerous occasions. It gave the impression that they were scoring goals by the bucketload.
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And that’s why it sometimes doesn’t compute that Mo Salah is the quickest ever LFC player to reach 50 Premier League goals.
The Egyptian king hit that landmark in 69 games, three fewer than Torres (fair enough), 17 games quicker than Owen (really?!) and 29 faster than Fowler (I’m simply not having that).
Memory can play tricks and all that, but I think the biggest reason for thinking that Fowler and Owen got there quicker or in similar time is because they banged in loads of hat-tricks. Salah has managed just a single hat-trick in each of his two seasons at Anfield despite being the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner for the last two campaigns.
Maybe it’s like cricket. Salah nudges singles and the odd two, but the brain responds more to the player who smashes a six and plays out five dot balls. Okay, that’s a slightly naff analogy but let’s not forget that the term ‘hat-trick’ originated in cricket so stick that up your jumper.
It's been two years since @MoSalah joined the Reds. 🗓️
What's your favourite goal he's netted? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/LnXlndcpaN
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 22, 2019
Anyway, it’s time to bring some science into this so I decided to check out LFChistory.net to get the full facts on Liverpool hat-tricks.
It seems like the old grey matter has done quite well on the recall as Rush has 16 hat-tricks while Fowler and Owen boast 10 each.
Liverpool have had a glittering array of strikers down the years, but only two other players – one of them World Cup winner Roger Hunt – have reached double figures.
Luis Suarez had six (a fair reflection of his brilliant few seasons) and Steven Gerrard managed five which seems about right given that, despite the longevity, he was a midfielder.
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But there are some real oddities elsewhere.
John Aldridge and Kenny Dalglish have just three, the same number as Torres.
But also there on three is Yossi Benayoun! That’s right. Our popular but slightly fragile midfielder of the last decade stuffed the ball up his shirt just as many times as King Kenny.
In fact, play LFC Top Trumps and your “Hat-tricks, three” on the Benayoun card will win you John Barnes (two), Ian St John (two), Stan Collymore (one), Peter Beardsley (one), Philippe Coutinho (one), Roberto Firmino (one), Sadio Mane (one), Emile Heskey (one), Daniel Sturridge (one) and Kevin Keegan!
Perhaps Rafa was right. Hat-tricks are sexy, glittery and flashy, but they don’t really tell the full story.
By Dave Tindall