Monday, 2 February 2009

Rafa's roar stirs Liverpool

A defiant Rafael Benitez insisted Liverpool were still in the title race after his side ended a run of three morale-sapping draws with a stirring 2-0 won over fellow contenders Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.

A first half that was as cagey as it was predictable burst into life two minutes from time when Spain international Fernando Torres scored twice in the space of 60 seconds to secure Liverpool a result which takes them to within two points of leaders and arch enemy Manchester United.

Frank Lampard had already departed for an early bath when Torres had fired the first of two nails into Chelsea's title coffin for a lunge at Xabi Alonso, although replays suggested the England international had played the ball first.

Defeat means Chelsea have taken only one point from a possible 15 against their 'big four' rivals this season and manager Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted his side's title hopes are now "distant".

The west Londoners are now five points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson's side and too may times this season, against their title rivals, have looked rudderless.

Scolari brushed off talk that his job is on the line by insisting there is "no pressure" but hardened Chelsea fans will know they are fast losing ground and hope.

Not even the spectre of co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet – who sat 12 seats apart in the directors' box – could ruin the day for Benitez, who insisted United would have a wobble before both sides reached the winning post.

United go to Upton Park next – where they have lost twice in succession in the league – to take on an in-form West Ham team unbeaten in eight away games, but are showing devastating form and can be found trading as short as 4/11 in the latest football betting odds to win their third successive crown.

Liverpool, by contrast, travel to take on free-falling Portsmouth who are on an eight-game winless run and are just a point above the relegation zone with the vultures already circling over the head of under-fire manager Tony Adams.

Liverpool have been supported in to 11/2 in the title race betting odds after their Chelsea win, but lack the experience of proven course-and-distance winners United and place too much emphasis on skipper and perennial match-winner Steven Gerrard.

The run in should be fascinating and, as Benitez roared, bring it on.

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