Liverpool close gap to fourth place

LIVERPOOL: Fernando Torres was at his lethal best as he scored a sublime double to help Liverpool overwhelm Sunderland 3-0 on Sunday and keep alive their challenge for a UEFA Champions League place.

Rafael Benitez's side cut the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham to four points after totally dominating woeful Sunderland at Anfield. Torres opened the scoring early on with a superb strike and, after Glen Johnson's goal had put the Reds in total control, the Spain forward notched his second with a cleverly taken effort on the hour.

Starts do not come much better than the one Liverpool had here as Daniel Agger forced Craig Gordon into a good block after just 90 seconds before Torres did what he does best after three minutes. He picked the ball up on the left wing, cut inside and then tried his luck from the edge of the box, curling a wonderful shot right into the top corner for his sixth goal in just four games.

Benitez's men seem to have finally realised that being bold is their best policy at present and that was reflected in the ultra-aggressive early play as they completely dominated the visitors. In fact, this encounter could have been over before the 20 minute mark. Torres missed one golden opportunity from less than six yards after great build up play by Steven Gerrard and Maxi Rodriguez. Then Gerrard and Agger failed to hit the target when well positioned as Sunderland simply failed to cope with the home side's class.

Sunderland's top scorer Darren Bent could do little but watch as all the action unfolded at the other end of the field. Liverpool thought they had doubled their lead after 25 minutes and were only prevented from doing so when Gordon pulled off arguably the save of the season. Maxi brilliantly flicked a powerful header goalward and a goal looked a certainty until Gordon somehow got an arm to the effort and deflected over his crossbar.

However, Gordon could not do much soon after when Johnson's effort was deflected in off the thigh of Michael Turner for a finish that effectively sealed the points. As half-time approached, Torres hit the post from 12 yards as Liverpool continued to overwhelm the visitors as they poured forward at will.

Immediately after the re-start, Torres was denied by Gordon with his legs while Ryan Babel also blazed over the bar when well placed as Liverpool looked to build on their first-half dominance. And that is exactly what they did after 60 minutes as Johnson opted to pass to Torres rather than shoot while well placed and his decision was more than justified when Torres calmly clipped the ball past Gordon to add more gloss to the scoreline.

Liverpool refused to

sit back despite their impressive lead and they could have scored even more as Babel and Kuyt both shot over the crossbar when they should have done better.