Football: Ince has the last laugh

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Liverpool 5

Owen 4, McAteer 21, 25, Leonhardsen 45, Ince 61

West Ham United 0

Attendance: 44,414

PAUL INCE entered Anfield to see a West Ham banner asking "How's the jaw then, Judas?" He departed, 10 days after being punched by a West Ham supporter outside Wembley, with a massive grin and prolonged laughter the only likely causes of fresh pain.

The fans of his former club will forever pursue Ince for having the nerve to leave them nine years ago for the richer pastures of Old Trafford, but they were wasting their time yesterday. This match had long since finished as a meaningful contest when Ince scored Liverpool's fifth goal midway through the second half.

So a season-best win for Liverpool takes them into third place and above Chelsea, the team that thrashed them last week and prompted their manager, Roy Evans, to brand his players as gutless. West Ham slip from seventh to 10th after conceding nine goals in two games - and probably their chance of a Uefa Cup place in the process. Funny old game.

The former Evertonian, David Unsworth, gifted Liverpool the lead after only three minutes. His casual pass, a feature of West Ham's start, went straight to Jason McAteer who marked his first game back since breaking a leg in January with a first time ball into Michael Owen's path - lightning pace and a radar guided right-foot shot did the rest. It was perfect timing, too, as he celebrated his return from suspension in front of the watching England coach, Glenn Hoddle.

McAteer added Liverpool's second in the 21st minute when an Oyvind Leonhardsen shot came back out to him on the edge of the area and he drove in a right- foot volley which bounced in front of the French goalkeeper, Bernard Lama, and over his outstretched hands.

If West Ham did not realise it was all over then, they did four minutes later when McAteer doubled his season's output by shooting into an empty net after the referee, Jeff Winter, had waved play on after Lama blatantly hauled down Owen. A booking for Lama immediately followed -- he was one of five West Ham players cautioned - but he had a 20-minute wait before seeing the ball fly past him again when Leonhardsen was allowed an age to turn, shoot and score Liverpool's fourth.

West Ham had their one and only shot shortly after the break - a miscued Paul Kitson volley that sailed 20 yards over the bar - and Ince had his fun in the 62nd minute when he drilled in a shot from 25 yards out.