Torres keeps Liverpool on Premiership track

LONDON (AFP) – Fernando Torres kept Liverpool‘s title bid on track with a late winner in a five-goal thriller at West Ham on Saturday.

The Spain striker headed in a Ryan Babel cross quarter of an hour from the end to claim his second goal of the evening and seal a 3-2 win for the Reds, who could ill-afford to lose any more ground on leaders Chelsea having already suffered two defeats this season.

Arsenal started the day in a similar position after back-to-back defeats by both Manchester clubs, but the Gunners enjoyed a much more comfortable time as they strolled to a 4-0 win over Wigan at the Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea entertain Tottenham on Sunday, which also sees champions Manchester United take on unbeaten Manchester City in a keenly-anticipated derby at Old Trafford.

Liverpool were never behind at Upton Park but were pegged back twice by West Ham, with Alessandro Diamanti scoring a controversial penalty to cancel out Torres‘s solo opener and Carlton Cole nodding home after Dirk Kuyt had stabbed in Steven Gerrard‘s goalbound header.

Liverpool had no reason to complain about West Ham’s penalty, awarded when Jamie Carragher shoved Zavon Hines off the ball, but television replays suggested Diamanti’s successful spot-kick should not have stood as a slip resulted in the Italian making a double contact with the ball.

Thomas Vermaelen repaid another chunk of the ten million pounds it cost to buy him from Ajax with Arsenal’s first two goals, taking the centreback’s tally for his new employers to four after only eight matches.

Arsene Wenger has rarely looked a shrewder judge of a player and the Arsenal boss quipped: “Let’s be honest, I thought he could adapt quickly but maybe not as quickly as that.”

Vermaelen headed in Robin van Persie‘s corner midway through the opening period before beating Chris Kirkland with a fine shot four minutes into the second.

An Eduardo shot deflected off Emmanuel Eboue for the third and Cesc Fabregas added the fourth in the final minute.

Aston Villa put the pre-match controversy over Nigel Reo-Coker‘s bust-up with manager Martin O’Neill to one side to claim a 2-0 win over Portsmouth, who became the first side to lose their first six matches since the launch of the Premier League in 1992-93.

James Milner gave Villa the lead from the spot after Pompey skipper Nadir Belhadj pulled down Stiliyan Petrov as the Bulgarian midfielder burst into the box.

Gabriel Agbonlahor added a second just before half-time with a strike that had O’Neill pressing his forward’s case for inclusion in England‘s World Cup squad.

“He conjured something from nothing and that gave us a massive lift,” O’Neill said. “South Africa is a long way off but if he can continue that sort of form he will be hard to ignore.”

David Nugent marked his home debut for Burnley with a double as the Clarets notched up their third straight win at home with a 3-1 defeat of Sunderland.

The on-loan striker, who scored just three goals in 34 league games for Portsmouth, claimed two for his new employers in less than half an hour after coming on as a second-half substitute.

Burnley had gone ahead through Graham Alexander penalty that Darren Bent, with his fifth goal of the season, cancelled out just before half-time.

A late Matt Taylor penalty salvaged a point for Bolton after Dave Kitson had given Stoke the lead at the Reebok Stadium.

Birmingham took all three points from their visit to Hull thanks to Scotland striker Garry O’Connor‘s near-post header from a Keith Fahey corner, a quarter of an hour from the end.

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