LIVERPOOL: Fernando Torres eased the pressure on Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as his sublime strike inspired a 2-0 win over Manchester United today.

Benitez had endured a miserable week as Liverpool's losing run extended to four matches, their worst spell for 22 years, but Spanish striker Torres gave his compatriot a much-needed boost with a lethal second half finish before David Ngog's stoppage time goal secured a third successive win against United.

A chaotic closing period also saw both sides finish with 10 men as Nemanja Vidic was sent off for hauling down Dirk Kuyt and then Javier Mascherano was dismissed for a clumsy foul on Edwin van der Sar.

Liverpool have closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to six points and stopped United regaining top spot, as well as condemning the champions to their first defeat in 12 matches. With Steven Gerrard's failure to recover from a groin injury in time to feature forced Benitez to gamble on Torres's fitness as he tried to avoid presiding over a fifth successive defeat and Liverpool's worst run for 56 years.

On Satuday, Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea hammered Blackburn Rovers 5-0. An own goal in the 20th minute from defender Gael Givet put the Blues ahead. England midfielder Lampard scored his first Premier League goal since April when he fired home from Drogba's pull back before Michael Essien wrapped up the points in the 52nd minute.

Lampard scored his second, and Chelsea's fourth, from the penalty spot after Drogba was brought down seven minutes later by Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen, the New Zealand defender. The impressive Drogba then added a fifth in the 64th minute as Chelsea made it nine goals in two matches after their midweek 4-0 Champions League defeat of Atletico Madrid. Earlier, Tottenham Hotspur lost 1-0 against Stoke City. At the bottom of the table, basement club Portsmouth were held to a goalless draw by fellow strugglers Hull.

Spanish La Liga

MADRID: After losing to AC Milan in the Champions League in midweek, Real Madrid dropped two points in the title race with a 0-0 draw at Sporting Gijon on Saturday as they failed to score for the first time this season.

Real, however, are still on top of the table ahead of Barcelona on goal difference. Sevilla missed the chance to capitalise on Real's slip following a 0-0 home draw against 10-man Espanyol. Sevilla stay three points behind Real after failing to score in the league for the second successive game. Espanyol had been reduced to 10 men after defender Nicolas Pareja was sent off for hacking down Diego Capel on the hour mark but Kameni pulled off some fine saves to hold on for a point.

Also, Atletico Madrid failed to beat nine-man Real Mallorca struggling to a 1-1 draw at the Vicente Calderon.