Liverpool capitalised on Everton‘s failure to win at Birmingham yesterday by seeing off Blackburn at Anfield and further strengthening their hold on fourth place by moving five points ahead of their Merseyside rivals.
Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Andriy Voronin scored the goals to see off Blackburn in the second half.
Anfield observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of the 19th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
BBC Sport Report
Steven Gerrard, who had a penalty appeal turned down after he was clipped by Brad Friedel, broke the deadlock with a cool finish in the second half.
Torres met Gerrard’s deep cross with a precise header to make it 2-0 before Andrei Voronin slid home a third.
Roque Santa Cruz hooked in a late reply for Blackburn, who were well beaten.
Rafa Benitez’s side are now five points clear of fifth-placed Everton with four league games to go.
Liverpool are also into the semi-finals of the Champions League after Tuesday’s dramatic win over Arsenal but their achievements on the pitch this season are in danger of being overshadowed by the ongoing boardroom wrangling at Anfield.
The latest salvo in the dispute between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett saw Hicks call for the resignation of chief executive Rick Parry this week.
Benitez had urged his players to ignore the off-field shenanigans and focus on football, and he will have been pleased with their reaction here, particularly in the second half.
Blackburn cannot be aggrieved with the final outcome but they will point to an early strike by Jason Roberts, wrongly ruled out for offside when he was level with Martin Skrtel, as proof the result could have been very different.
But Liverpool also felt key decisions went against them before the break, and Gerrard, as usual, was heavily involved.
He felt he should have had a penalty when Rovers keeper Friedel indisputably made contact with the Reds skipper, who had won the race for a ball inside the area.
Referee Alan Wiley waved Liverpool‘s claims away, however, and also ignored Christopher Samba’s shove on Gerrard as they chased a bouncing ball on the edge of the box soon afterwards.
Gerrard pounded his fist into the wet Anfield turf in frustration and that decision was probably playing on his mind seconds later when he badly miscued in front of goal after Dirk Kuyt had teed him up.
Torres and Kuyt also both went close with headers, while only some alert goalkeeping by Friedel stopped the Spaniard from nipping in to intercept Steven Reid’s poor backpass.
But it took until the hour mark for Liverpool to make their pressure tell – and fittingly it was Gerrard who broke the deadlock.
Santa Cruz gave the ball away and Gerrard exchanged passes with Lucas, burst past Samba into the box and coolly slotted home.
Blackburn, belatedly, came forward but were left frustrated by another Wiley decision, this time to only book Skrtel who had hauled down Roberts as he broke clear on goal.
A red card would have given Blackburn hope but instead it was Liverpool who quickly wrapped things up with two more goals which both came courtesy of some poor defending.
Torres met Gerrard’s cross at the far post to beat Friedel with a superb header before substitute Voronin got in on the act to tuck away Riise’s cross from close range.
Wiley also turned down another penalty appeal from Gerrard, who on this occasion clearly went to ground too easily under pressure from Samba.
Blackburn did manage to get on the scoresheet before the end, Santa Cruz firing home after Skrtel failed to clear, but Liverpool‘s victory was not in doubt.
“We knew that it would be tough so we needed to keep going, keep working.
“At half-time we told them to keep playing football because we knew we could score but also we knew it could be difficult.
“The understanding between Gerrard and Torres was, at the end, the key.”
“We are disappointed with the goals we conceded. We were victims of over-playing.
“Our downfall was misplaced passes in dangerous areas. Liverpool have some quality players and they were able to pick us off.
“The first goal was key. We should not have conceded two more but Liverpool probably deserved the win.”