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Torres takes a penalty; Suarez dives on day off

ESPN staff
December 8, 2012

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Penalty notice

It's hardly proof-positive that Rafa Benitez is a genius, but if Roman Abramovich has really instructed the Spanish gaffer to get Fernando Torres back in the goals then sticking him on penalties has already paid dividends.

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Torres scored 81 times for Liverpool but not one of them came from the spot, while he has never been tasked with taking an attempt from 12 yards in blue either - famously even being snubbed from the shootout at last season's Champions League final.

The Spaniard then refused (or, more accurately, didn't volunteer) to take either of the two Chelsea won in the Champions League in midweek, yet there he was on Saturday - taking his first ever spot-kick in English football as he aimed to put Chelsea 2-0 ahead at Sunderland.

It's fair to say his five-year absence from the discipline (we believe his last penalty was for Atletico Madrid back in 2007) was probably too long judging by his effort, a cool-as-you-like slot into the bottom corner as the goalkeeper went the other way. Worth the wait (sort of).

When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world...

Scientists would call it natural cause-and-effect (we haven't actually bothered to ask them, but we assume that to be the case). When Arsenal were awarded a first-half penalty against West Brom, suspicions were immediately raised that Santi Cazorla had rather 'won' the decision off referee Mike Jones.

Immediately, diving became a subject of discussion on Twitter. So whose name immediately started trending? Why, Luis Suarez's, of course.

The Uruguayan is synonymous with many things - but it seems diving remains No. 1.

"Looks like Cazorla has been spending his spare time with Suarez," was one particularly wry tweet we enjoyed.

Doing your homework

Petr Cech is a student of the game, so it's fair to say he swots up on his opponents. His research ahead of Chelsea's trip to Sunderland would have thrown up the fact that Adam Johnson had just one goal to his name. Not the greatest return, it's fair to say. The stat was probably ringing in Cech's ears as he saw Johnson wind up from an extremely tight angle.

That's surely the only explanation as the Blues No. 1 did the football equivalent of shouldering arms. With hands in the air convinced the ball was going wide, he was well and truly done by a bit of inswing as the shot flashed into the top corner - with Cech left scratching his skullcap.

Michael Atherton might have liked the technique, but Rafa Benitez will probably have a few words to say about it this evening...

Back in the swing of things

Looking good, Crouchy © Getty Images
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It's not easy being a [former?] England striker. Michael Owen in midweek received abuse after a blog about his career of injuries was interpreted as a criticism of Liverpool, and the former Manchester United striker was at Villa Park on Saturday as two other internationals came back from their own problems.

In the claret and blue corner there was Darren Bent, the striker returning to first-team action as a second-half substitute for the first time since Paul Lambert confusingly told everyone, "If I was going to lie to you, honestly I would lie." Then, for Stoke, there was fellow off-the-bench operator Peter Crouch - wearing a customised gumshield after seeing half his jaw knocked out in his last match.

Neither strikers actually managed to score, of course. Which is perhaps the most important bit of information. Sorry about leaving that to last.

Diamonds in the rough

Few might have expected the Liberty Stadium to be the site of impressive achievements this season, but then Michael Laudrup has already worked something approaching wonders with his squad.

King of the hill is Spaniard Michu, who moved clear atop the Premier League goalscoring charts with 12 after notching twice on Saturday. But his side, rather crucially, actually lost the game to Norwich - who are now nine games unbeaten in the top flight (in a run that includes games against Arsenal and Manchester United).

That is seriously impressive - and we are sure even Michu would agree.

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