Reds ruin Torres' Blues bow
Meireles strike dents Chelsea's title bid and lifts Liverpool into sixth
Moment of the match: Maxi Rodrigues somehow managed to hit the bar from six-yards out in the first period.
Attempt of the match: It looked like the Fernando Torres of old when he was about to pull the trigger in the box, but Jamie Carragher made a superb block to deny him.
Save of the match: Pepe Reina had little to do but his block from Florent Malouda was vital.
Talking point: Fernando Torres' debut was the obvious headline maker before the game, but he was well below-par and it will be interesting to see how far Chelsea are prepared to go to accommodate their new £50m striker.
Raul Meireles ensured Fernando Torres endured an afternoon to forget on Sunday, with Liverpool claiming a 1-0 win away at Chelsea.
All the talk prior to kick-off was of the Blues' £50million forward, but he got little change out of a Reds outfit set up by Kenny Dalglish to frustrate and nullify the hosts' considerable attacking threat.
In the end it was Meireles who stole the headlines, with the Portuguese playmaker grabbing the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge.
It took less than two minutes for the man of the moment to get away his first shot for his new club, but Torres' radar was off on this occasion as he curled into the stands after picking up a stray pass from former colleague Maxi Rodriguez.
Chelsea had already seen John Obi Mikel booked by that stage, with just 30 seconds on the clock when the Nigerian midfielder saw yellow for a clumsy challenge on Steven Gerrard.
The pre-match hype was overshadowing proceedings, with the first 15 minutes offering little more than some gentle sparring.
They were not prepared to take risks, though, with a Didier Drogba shot which deflected narrowly wide off Frank Lampard as close as either side came early on.
From the resulting goal-kick, Pepe Reina played Martin Skrtel into trouble and he was fortunate to force his way through Nicolas Anelka after turning straight into the Frenchman on the edge of the box.
Chelsea were seeing plenty of the ball at this stage, but a hooked cross from the buccaneering Ashley Cole summed up their efforts as no-one in blue was on hand to challenge inside the area.
Branislav Ivanovic, who Liverpool should have needed no introduction to following his European exploits in 2009, saw a couple of headers from corners flash wide, but Torres had his moment shortly after the half-hour mark.
Drogba slid an inch-perfect pass into his new strike partner, but the most expensive player in British football was unable to drill a low shot past a typically robust block from the returning Jamie Carragher.
The visitors should have taken the lead a couple of minutes later, but Maxi somehow failed to find the target from five yards out.
Gerrard drove across the face of goal and, having ghosted in at the back post, Liverpool's Argentinian forward skewed the ball onto the face of the crossbar off his ankle.
Chelsea's defence was rattled again in first-half stoppage-time, with Petr Cech and Ivanovic becoming embroiled in an angry exchange after colliding as they both went for a Martin Kelly delivery which posed no threat.
Liverpool settled into the second half quickly, spraying the ball around with confidence, but it was Drogba who had the first chance after the break, with Carragher doing just about enough to prevent the Ivorian from testing Reina with an acrobatic overhead kick.
On 53 minutes Dirk Kuyt contemplated throwing himself at a hanging cross, but opted instead to recycle possession and Glen Johnson lashed a fizzing shot inches over the top after being teed up 20 yards out.
Moments later Drogba saw an effort bundled behind, after Cole had tumbled inside the box but was waved back to his feet.
Anelka tried his luck from distance, as Liverpool stood off their former forward, but once again a defender in red was able put himself in the path of the ball and divert it away from goal.
It was no surprise on the hour mark to see activity on both benches, with Dalglish and Carlo Ancelotti contemplating changes after seeing Plan A draw a blank.
Anelka came close to breaking the deadlock before the alterations arrived, crashing a drilled shot past an upright, but it was apparent that fresh legs were required to add extra impetus to the game.
With 65 minutes gone, Torres' afternoon came to a premature end as he made way for Salomon Kalou - with his departure greeted with cheers and jeers from opposite ends of the ground.
Within seconds of the Spaniard settling on the bench, Essien burst clear of his midfield shackles and lofted a left-footed effort over the top.
Then, on 69 minutes, the opening goal finally arrived, with Chelsea's failure to deal with a Gerrard cross from the right allowing the in-form Meireles to fire into the back of an unguarded net.
The response from the hosts was immediate, with Florent Malouda forcing a smart save from Reina shortly after replacing the ineffective Mikel.
Chelsea then handed a debut to the second of their big-money arrivals, with highly-rated Brazilian defender David Luiz introduced to the locals in place of Jose Bosingwa.
Dalglish was now happy to settle for a narrow victory, with the forward-thinking Maxi replaced by the defensively-minded Fabio Aurelio as Liverpool looked to shut up shop.
The Reds boss would have been concerned to see his side retreat further and further into their shell, but Chelsea's need to score saw them leave gaping holes at the back.
Aurelio almost benefited from those defensive frailties 10 minutes from time, as Liverpool countered at pace, but he saw a shot with his weaker right foot comfortably beaten away by Cech.
Liverpool then added further steel to their midfield ranks as Christian Poulsen allowed goal-hero Meireles to take a well-earned rest.
Chelsea huffed and puffed in pursuit of a leveller, with Ivanovic pushed forward to try and add another attacking threat, especially in the air.
Their efforts came to nothing, though, with Liverpool looking the more likely to add a second in the closing stages as Kuyt attempted to take advantage of the open space left in behind the Blues' back four.
Defeat leaves reigning champions Chelsea 10 points adrift of Manchester United, while Liverpool now sit sixth - six points adrift of the top four and dreaming of a UEFA Champions League spot which seemed so unlikely at the turn of the year.