Liverpool rout Villa

London, March 23:

Steven Gerrard scored a hat trick on Sunday, sending Liverpool past Aston Villa 5-0 and within a point of first-place Manchester United in the Premier League.

Having routed United 4-1 last weekend, Liverpool took advantage of the champions losing 2-0 at Fulham on Saturday. United have 65 points after 29 games; Liverpool has 64 after 30 games. Chelsea, who lost 1-0 at Tottenham on Saturday, have 61. It was Liverpool’s biggest win of the season.

Dirk Kuyt took just eight minutes to score against a Villa team that is chasing one of the four Champions League spots. Villa’s miserable afternoon at Anfield was compounded when goalkeeper Brad Friedel was sent off for bringing down Fernando Torres as he surged forward to meet Xabi Alonso’s ball.

Micah Richards scored his first goal in two and a half years to lead Manchester City over struggling Sunderland 1-0. Robinho, who hasn’t scored for City in 2009, missed a penalty kick in the 22nd minute. Sunderland were reduced to 10 men when George McCartney was sent off in the 15th minute. Sunderland remain three points above relegation zone, one behind Hull, who lost at Wigan 1-0 on Ben Watson’s 84th-minute goal.