Steven Gerrard scored his first hat-trick for the club as Liverpool romped to a 5-0 win over Aston Villa.
With United having lost on Saturday, Liverpool had an opportunity to get to within a point of the League leaders – and they took it in some style.
Following on from the back-to-back victories over Real Madrid and Man United, Rafa Benitez’s side destroyed Villa with a high-tempo pass and move performance.
Gerrard and Torres, inevitably, were at the root of all things good but it was Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera who scored the first two. Kuyt pouncing after a Gerrard free-kick had been headed against the bar by Alonso. Riera racing onto a huge Pepe Reina clearance to hammer in off the underside of the bar.
It was three shortly before half-time when Reo Coker brought down Riera and Gerrard scored his third penalty in as many games.
Within minutes of the restart Gerrard had his second and Liverpool’s fourth, passing the ball into the corner of the net with a free-kick on the edge of the box. And it was five not long after when Gerrard scored another free-kick after Brad Friedel brought down Torres as the Spaniard went around the former Liverpool keeper at the Kop end.
Young American keeper Brad Guzan made his Villa debut and his first job was to attempt to deny Gerrard his first ever hat-trick with a penalty in front of the Kop – good luck son!
With Villa down to ten, Liverpool strolled through the final twenty minutes, Daniel Agger made his comeback from injury, Alonso and Arbeloa were withdrawn after only recovering from injuries in time to play, and Gerrard got a little rest late on.
Pepe Reina made two great saves, one world class, and assisted Riera’s goal, he became the fastest Liverpool goalkeeper ever to acheive 100 clean sheets. Pepe Reina, Pepe Reina ole ole!
If Liverpool win their next outing, away to Fulham in two weeks, they will go top of the League.
Post Match Reaction
BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty: “Rafael Benitez’s side were presented with an opportunity to push the door to the title ajar and this time there was no mistake.
“United, as experienced as they are, will be feeling Liverpool breathing down the back of their necks now and there is a real air of title expectation around Anfield now.
“Villa? Tired, lack-lustre and well-beaten – although they were backed by superb support until the final whistle. Looks like the Uefa Europa League for Martin O’Neill’s side now, an irony given the way they exited the Uefa Cup with a weakened team this season.”
Steven Gerrard: “We would have settled for a 1-0 win today, Villa are a fantastic team but have had a dip in form of late. We got an early goal and built on it. You do think about goal difference, but only when the game’s won. We just have to keep piling pressure on Manchester United. My first Premier League hat-trick means a lot.”
|Reina, Arbeloa (Agger 76), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso (Lucas 66), Gerrard (Ngog 80), Kuyt, Riera,
|Teams||Friedel, Reo-Coker (Guzan 64), Cuellar, Davies, Luke Young, Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Heskey (Agbonlahor 58), Carew (Gardner
|Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, El
|Subs not used||Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou,
|Kuyt 8, Riera 33, Gerrard 39 pen, 50, 65 pen.||Goals||NA|
|Gerrard||Booked||L. Young, Gardner|
|NA||Sent off||Friedel (64)|
Shots Off Target
Shots On Target
|28 (96%)||Tackles (Success)||23 (87%)|
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)