A Fernando Torres strike inside the first ten minutes was enough to give Liverpool a crucial 1-0 victory over local rivals Everton in the race for fourth spot.
Torres took advantage of sloppy Everton defending, latching onto a loose ball after Dirk Kuyt tackled Joseph Yobo on the edge of the Everton penalty area. Torres had no hesitation in cooly finish past the oncoming Tim Howard to give the Reds the lead and his 28th goal of the season.
Liverpool deserved the victory and the margin could have been more with Dirk Kuyt having several attempts on goal and Steven Gerrard hitting the post and seeing a late scortching shot well saved by Howard in the Toffee’s goal.
The result puts the Red half of Merseyside five points clear of fifth place Everton with five games of the season to go.
Match Report from BBC Sport
Liverpool strengthened their grip on fourth place after Fernando Torres’ 28th goal of the season gave them victory in the Merseyside derby.
The Spaniard expertly slotted the ball beyond Tim Howard for the only goal of the game after just seven minutes.
With Yakubu deployed as a lone striker Everton created very little, while Liverpool spurned several chances.
A rasping Steven Gerrard volley hit the post, while Everton‘s best chance fell to Leon Osman who headed wide.
The result puts Liverpool five points clear of their local rivals in fourth place with just six games of the season remaining.
Rafa Benitez made three changes from the team that lost to Manchester United last weekend and Everton, without Andrew Johnson and Tim Cahill, looked devoid of ideas in the opening half.
Liverpool broke the deadlock when Gerrard’s corner was only half cleared.
After Xabi Alonso nicked the ball from Yakubu, Dirk Kuyt flicked on to Torres, who slotted a shot beyond Howard when under pressure.
It could have got a lot worse for Everton as first Kuyt and then his fellow countryman Ryan Babel failed to connect with dangerous balls into the area.
Gerrard almost doubled his side’s advantage five minutes before half time.
A long punt upfield by Pepe Reina was flicked on by Torres and Gerrard’s first-time volley came crashing back off the post with Howard well beaten.
Liverpool attacked at every opportunity and looked dangerous going forward, while in contrast Yakubu was all too often isolated on his own.
The home side ended the half on a high as a sweeping move involving Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Torres ended with Kuyt volleying wide.
Everton regrouped after the interval and they nearly made Liverpool pay for their missed chances when Osman headed wide from Mikel Arteta’s free-kick.
Both defences were on top after that with Sami Hyypia expertly challenging Yakubu when in a dangerous position, while at the other end Joseph Yobo denied Torres a clear run on goal.
Everton manager David Moyes moved Phil Jagielka up front to partner Yakubu in the final five minutes.
And in a late Everton rally Reina escaped as he flapped at a cross, but the ball would not fall kindly for Tony Hibbert.
At the other end Liverpool had two chances to put the game beyond doubt as Dirk Kuyt shot was blocked by Manuel Fernandes, while Gerrard forced Howard to make a great save as he shot from distance.