Liverpool 3 Blackburn Rovers 1: Torres thrives on Gerrard's support act in Anfield stroll

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If Liverpool's players were in any way distracted by the civil war raging off the field at Anfield, it was not enough to be of any benefit to Blackburn in their quest to be the Premier League's representative in the Intertoto Cup, nor to Everton in their now diminishing hopes of finishing in the top four.

Liverpool ultimately had too much determination and too much class for Mark Hughes' team. The scoreline may have been a little flattering to them, inflated as it was by two goals in the last eight minutes, but there was no argument with the merit in the result, which puts Liverpool five points ahead of their Merseyside rivals with four matches to go.

Inevitably, the determining influences were Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, who continue to bring a smile to the face of their manager, Rafael Benitez. They have been Liverpool's match-winners all season, but with the evolution of their relationship on the pitch the threat they pose to opponents is more potent now than ever.

Settling into a position just behind Torres in what was effectively a four-man Liverpool attack, with Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel in the wide positions, Gerrard was in his element, striking fear into Blackburn through his ability, with a burst of acceleration, to tear a hole in their defence in an instant.

After his first, telling charge, midway through the first half, he was convinced he should have had a penalty, tumbling over the body of Brad Friedel. The referee, Mike Riley, noted the position of Gerrard's trailing leg, however, and gave the Blackburn goalkeeper the benefit of the doubt.

Later in the opening half Gerrard was bundled over by Christopher Samba, outside the box this time, but was denied even a free kick.

Then again, Riley ruled leniently in Liverpool's favour more than once, notably when Jason Roberts, about to race into a one-on-one chance against Pepe Reina at 1-0 down, was pulled back by Martin Skrtel, who received only a caution when a red card might have been appropriate.

The match-turning moment came after the introduction of Yossi Benayoun. Intercepting a stray pass by Roque Santa Cruz deep in Blackburn territory, it was the Israeli who launched the breakthrough move, one that ended with Gerrard exchanging passes with Lucas before surging past Samba and steering the ball wide of Friedel.

Torres made his mark in the 82nd minute to put the result beyond doubt, the Spaniard rising unmarked to head home a perfect cross by Gerrard to claim his 30th goal of the season. Andriy Voronin, who replaced Torres in the last five minutes, slid home the third goal in the last minute, before Santa Cruz, with a deft volley, claimed small, stoppage-time consolation for Blackburn

"After the praise for the way they played against Arsenal, it was difficult for the players to be ready to play again," Benitez said. "In the end, Gerrard and Torres were the key."

Goals: Gerrard (60) 1-0; Torres (82) 2-0; Voronin (90) 3-0; Santa Cruz (90) 3-1.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Lucas, Alonso (Riise 87); Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 58); Torres (Veronin 85). Substitutes not used: Itandje, Hyypia.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Reid, Bentley, Vogel (Dunn 73), Pedersen (Dunn 73); Santa Cruz, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Brown, Ooijer, Mokoena.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booking: Liverpool Skrtel.

Man of the match: Gerrard.

Attendance: 43,287.

Spanish record-breaker

Fernando Torres is the first Liverpool player to score in seven consecutive home League games

13 April v Blackburn (1 goal)

8 April v Arsenal (1)

30 March v Everton (1)

15 March v Reading (1)

8 March v Newcastle (1)

5 March v West Ham (3)

23 Feb v Middlesbrough (3)

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