Gerrard treble adds to United's trouble

Liverpool captain spurs 5-0 rout of Aston Villa to cut champions' lead to a point

Steven Gerrard set the tone for Liverpool's Premier League pursuit of Manchester United yesterday when he said that Liverpool were "ready to pounce" on any mistake by the champions after a 5-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Anfield. Gerrard, who scored a hat-trick, said that Liverpool were on the champions' "shoulders" as United's lead at the top of the Premier League was reduced to one point.

United's devastating 2-0 defeat to Fulham on Saturday left the door open for Liverpool, who beat a Villa side that conceded two penalties – both converted by Gerrard – and had Brad Friedel dismissed. The margin of victory means that Liverpool's goal difference now exceeds United's by two but the champions have a game in hand over their pursuers.

"When you win convincingly everyone knows you are in form and that confidence is high," Gerrard said. "Manchester United are capable of winning all their remaining [nine] games, so it is important we keep winning and keep on their shoulders. They will go into games knowing that we are ready to pounce on them if they make a mistake."

Despite the margin of victory, Rafael Benitez said that he was disappointed his team had not scored more against Villa, who lost Friedel to a straight red card in the 64th minute. He will now miss the away game against United on 5 April. "We were playing 10 players and we knew we could score more," Benitez said. "I'm not happy because we had three or four chances on the counter-attack and could have done better. We need to take advantage because you never know what could happen with the goal difference."

On the title race, the Liverpool manager said his team would push United to the end. "We have said before that we need to do our job and wait for United to make mistakes," he said. "We are closer but they are still in a much better position than us. We need to keep pushing them every game."

It was a first league hat-trick for Gerrard, who is now the country's joint top goalscorer with Nicolas Anelka with 21 in all competitions. Chelsea, who lost to Tottenham on Saturday now trail Liverpool by three points in third place. United will return from the international break with Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney – both dismissed on Saturday – serving bans as well as Nemanja Vidic. Pepe Reina broke the Liverpool record for reaching 100 clean sheets in the fewest games, just 196.

The Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, conceded his team had played "poorly. We have given away some really bad goals. If you want to be at the top on a regular basis, this is what it takes. You have to compete every game, four out of five is not enough."

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel