Premier League – Torres wins derby for Liverpool
Liverpool seized the initiative in the race for fourth place with a 1-0 victory over local rivals Everton at Anfield.
Fernando Torres scored his 21st league goal of the season to extend the gap over their fifth-placed neighbours to five points, putting qualification for next season’s Champions League firmly in their hands.
It took Torres just seven minutes to score in his first Merseyside derby. Everton cleared a Liverpool corner out to Yakubu, but the Nigerian hesitated on the edge of the penalty area and was dispossessed by Xabi Alonso. The ball broke into the path of Torres who pounced to slide his finish past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The Spanish striker, and the Liverpool team in general, carried a constant threat, and Everton were not allowed any time to get comfortable on the ball and build attacks.
Dirk Kuyt had several chances to double Liverpool’s lead, sending one header off target and having another shot blocked by Tony Hibbert. He got on the end of an impressive one-touch move involving Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Torres, but the Dutchman sent his volley wide of the mark.
Liverpool captain Gerrard was also unlucky not to score, as his well-struck volley from a Torres nod-down crashed off the foot of the post.
Everton, without Tim Cahill or Andy Johnson, had their chances severely hampered by the under-par set pieces of Mikel Arteta, and lone striker Yakubu was well marshalled by the big centre-back pairing of Sami Hyypia and Martin Skrtel.
The visitors made a brighter start to the second half, with Leon Osman getting in front of his marker at the near post but could only head his effort wide.
However, it was Liverpool who still dominated possession and created more chances, with defender Joseph Yobo making two vital blocks in 30 seconds from shots by Alonso and Lucas Leiva.
As the match moved into the closing stages, Everton failed to mount any real fightback, and Howard was forced into making a spectacular save from another solid Gerrard strike from distance in the last minute of normal time.
With only six matched remaining, Everton can almost certainly finish no higher than their current position, where they are still odds on for another season of UEFA Cup football as they are still four points above Portsmouth.
Tony Mabert / Eurosport