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Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009

Torres rescues Reds

Spanish striker notches 50th Liverpool goal in record time

LONDON (AP) Fernando Torres' 50th Premier League goal in stoppage time clinched Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Aston Villa and moved his team to within four points of Champions League berths on Tuesday.

Making his 72nd league appearance, Torres capitalized on a loose pass from former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock before drilling a low shot past Brad Friedel.

"We needed to win to be close to the top four. It was a massive game for us," Torres said. "Last season we kept working until the end and got points in extra time, like today."

The goal ensured the Spain international became the fastest player in Liverpool history to score a half-century of league goals.

"When you have guys like this in the team you know you can always snatch it," captain Steven Gerrard said, pointing to Torres. "Everyone knows that when Fernando's on form he's the best in the world and we want him to score many more goals like that to get us into the top four.

"It's important to build on this and I am sure we will gain a lot of confidence from this, and there are no excuses now."

Liverpool moved up to seventh, two points behind sixth-place Villa and City, and a further two back of Tottenham, which was in the fourth Champions League spot.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had earlier produced two crucial saves to deny Villa, which was searching for its first home win over the Reds for nearly 12 years.

Reina kept out a close-range volley from Stewart Downing in the first half and denied Villa's top scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor after he had broken clear midway through the second period.

Liverpool controlled the match at a snowy Villa Park, but struggled to find a way past Friedel. The goalkeeper turned over Gerrard's curling short from the edge of the area early on.

Liverpool had a penalty appeal turned down after a challenge by Villa central defender Richard Dunne on Dirk Kuyt.

In Tuesday's other match, Bolton threw away a two-goal lead against Hull and a chance to move out of the relegation zone as it was held to 2-2 at home.

Bolton led at halftime through Ivan Klasnic's shot from the edge of the penalty area, and the home side looked comfortable after Kevin Davies headed in another in the 61st.

But Hunt nodded home from Craig Fagan's cross in the 71st and a deflected shot leveled the score seven minutes later.

Bolton and Hull both moved four points ahead of last-place Portsmouth, but remain in the bottom three.

Toni eyes Roma move

ROME (AP) Luca Toni said Tuesday he is "more than convinced" that he will join AS Roma from Bayern Munich in the January transfer window.

The 32-year-old Toni has been out of favor with Munich coach Louis Van Gaal since the pair fell out earlier in the season and earlier in the month Munich president Uli Hoeness said Toni could leave on a free transfer.

"We hope that things will go as well as they should and to reach a satisfactory conclusion," Toni told radio station Centro Suono Sport on Tuesday. "I am more than convinced that on Jan. 2 I will be at Roma."

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