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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Torres stokes Liverpool's hopes

LONDON (AP) Fernando Torres scored twice Sunday as Liverpool's struggle to qualify for the Champions League was helped by a 3-0 victory over Sunderland.

The Spain striker struck in the third minute and again on the hour after Glen Johnson had scored Liverpool's second.

"My goals are because the team is playing really well," Torres said. "Hopefully the best goals are to come. We have six games to play and we have to keep playing like this.

The victory moved Liverpool up to fifth in the Premier League, four points behind fourth-place Tottenham having played a game more.

"We know we have to keep going," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "It will be difficult but we have to try."

At the wrong end of the standings, Burnley's hopes of surviving the drop were hit by a 1-0 home loss to Blackburn in Sunday's other match.

For Liverpool, an eighth straight victory at Anfield never looked in doubt after a high-tempo start saw Torres score in the opening minutes for the second successive Sunday.

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina's long kick reached Torres on the left flank and the striker dribbled his way inside Michael Turner before curling a shot over Craig Gordon into the far top corner.

Liverpool was passing the ball around sharply and incisively, but took until the 32nd minute to go further in front.

Captain Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner was only cleared to the edge of the penalty area and Johnson touched the ball inside on to his left-foot and unleashed a shot which took a deflection off Turner to beat Gordon.

As Liverpool continued to overwhelm Sunderland after the break, Johnson set up the third by threading the ball through to Torres, who spun on the penalty spot before nudging it past Gordon.

"In the first half in particular, Torres and Steven Gerrard gave a master-class and sometimes you just have to say, 'Well done,' " Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said. "It's hard to take but today Liverpool were just far too good for us, though I would expect more resilience and us to put up more of a fight than that."

Zola to carry on

LONDON (AP) Gianfranco Zola will remain manager of West Ham, and the Italian coach said Monday that he can keep the team in the Premier League.

Zola had been considering his future following West Ham's sixth consecutive loss on Saturday. The 1-0 setback against Stoke left the team out of the relegation zone on goal difference ahead of Hull.

"I am determined to carry on," said Zola, who went back to his home in Sardinia after the loss. "Losing on Saturday was emotional for everyone but I know we can turn it around and we have the ability to achieve our objectives."

West Ham's performances have been criticized by co-owner David Sullivan, but Zola said he had a supportive conversation with Sullivan and co-owner David Gold since the Stoke loss.

"They have backed me and I am grateful," Zola said on the club's Web site. "My only thought for now is to keep this club in the Premier League and that remains my goal. I'll give everything I can to make this happen between now and the end of the season.

"I have had time to think and we will have to work harder than we have before. I know we can get the results we need and it is just a question of making it happen."

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