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Monday, May 11, 2009

Gerrard double gives Liverpool faint hope

LONDON (AP) Steven Gerrard's double kept Liverpool's slim title hopes alive with a 3-0 victory at West Ham on Saturday, but Manchester United could still have retained its title by the time the Reds next play.

The Liverpool captain rolled the ball into an open net inside two minutes and added another in the 38th, slotting in the rebound after having a penalty saved. Substitute Ryan Babel rounded off the victory in the 84th as West Ham were overwhelmed.

The win moves Liverpool back atop the Premier League standings, although it only leads United on goal difference with the defending champions having two games in hand.

If the Red Devils beat Manchester City on Sunday, Wigan on Wednesday and take at least a point off Arsenal next Saturday, they will have matched Liverpool's haul of 18 titles by capturing a third straight title. Liverpool doesn't play again until next Sunday, when it travels to West Bromwich Albion, which is in last place but could still stave off relegation.

"We've put a little bit more pressure on United," Gerrard said. "If they win their games, fair play to them, they deserve it, but we've got to keep the pressure on.

"They've got a tough game. City have just come into a bit of form and derby matches are never easy. We wait and we hope that City can do us a favor — but the important thing is that we do our job."

While Liverpool has lost just twice compared to United's four, it is the 11 draws — including at home to West Ham — that have cost Gerrard's team dearly.

"It'd be nice to still have it in our hands, but we've got ourselves to blame by not winning football matches we should win," Gerrard said. "We've drawn too many games at home this season (seven) — it's been slightly frustrating but you've still got to give us credit.

"We've done so well to be in the title race. It's May 9 and it's the first time we've been in it (at this stage of season) for a long time, so credit where it's due."

Saturday's match at Upton Park was just the 12th time that Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres started a Premier League match together this season, and it took just 76 seconds for the duo, who have struggled with injuries, to rip through West Ham's defense.

Returning after a recurrence of hamstring problems, Torres slipped the ball beyond the back four through to Gerrard. The England midfielder was onside and able to skip around Robert Green before coolly slotting home.

"If you have Torres and Gerrard at their best it makes a lot of difference," Benitez said. "And it is more difficult for other teams to know who will score. We are playing better and better than before, with more control every game."

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