Steven Gerrard scored twice against West Ham to send Liverpool top of the Premier League and keep alive their slim title hopes.
Liverpool keep up title tilt
Steven Gerrard scored twice against West Ham to send Liverpool top of the Premier League and keep alive their slim title hopes. With Manchester United playing Manchester City on Sunday, Rafael Benitez's men overtook the Red Devils on goal difference ? but time has almost run out and they only have two matches left. United have four games and may not need them all to secure the title, although the efforts of Gerrard has at least stretched them well into May. The 28-year-old's goals at Upton Park took his tally to 23 for the season, with Ryan Babel adding a late third to seal the win. Liverpool's hopes this season have been built on the firepower of Fernando Torres and Gerrard ? and the pair combined after 76 seconds for the opener. Torres, back fit after a hamstring problem ruled him out of the win over Newcastle, received the ball in midfield but was given the time to turn and pick his pass, threading ball through to Gerrard beyond the Hammers defence. The hosts were claiming offside but James Tomkins had played Gerrard on, with the England midfielder taking the ball around Robert Green and finishing into an empty net. The early opener stunned the hosts, who kicked off knowing Fulham had won and Tottenham picked up a point earlier in the day in the race for the Europa League next season. The Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola believes four more points will see them secure seventh place ? which will get them into Europe if Uefa grant them a club licence ? and they had their moments after the setback of Gerrard's opener. The East London club were further undone when Luis Boa Morte suffered a nightmare 30 seconds which resulted in conceding a penalty just before the break. He was furious that no free-kick was given when Javier Mascherano brought him down, then chased back to his own penalty area and hauled down Torres. Green saved Gerrard's spot-kick but the rebound fell to the Liverpool captain to tap home. David di Michele should have pulled a goal back when he seized on a mistake by Jamie Carragher. He raced through and got his feet tangled up as he tried to take the ball around Reina. It was a shocking miss and referee Alan Wiley rubbed salt in the wound by booking the Italian for diving. Boa Morte was trying to atone for own his first-half error after the restart but one powerful run was ended by Fabio Aurelio, earning the fullback a caution. There were ironic cheers when Di Michele was taken off for Freddie Sears, as there were when Tristan put the ball in the net after clearly being offside. The visitors were able to keep out any genuine efforts and added a third through Babel with five minutes remaining. Kuyt crossed for his fellow Dutchman, Green saved the initial header but the rebound was tapped home. *PA Sport