Liverpool keep alive slim title hopes

West Ham 0 Liverpool 3

Liverpool returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League - for 24 hours at least - with a 3-0 win at West Ham today.

Rafael Benitez's side moved back ahead of Manchester United on goal difference after a Steven Gerrard brace helped them to victory at Upton Park.

Fernando Torres made his return from injury and it took only 76 seconds for his partnership with Gerrard to bear fruit again, the Spaniard expertly measuring a through-ball for his captain, who rounded Robert Green to put the Reds 1-0 up.

Gerrard scored again seven minutes before the break, missing from the spot after Luis Boa Morte had tugged Torres' shirt but making no mistake with the follow-up, while substitute Ryan Babel completed the scoring six minutes from time.

United, who have two games in hand over Liverpool, play Manchester City at Old Trafford tomorrow, while Chelsea, in third, take on fourth-placed Arsenal.

At the other end of the table, West Brom brought their fans new hope that they can beat the drop with a stirring 3-1 win over Wigan.

The Baggies remain at the foot of the league but are now level on points in the relegation zone with Middlesbrough and Newcastle - who meet on Monday - after sealing a precious victory at the Hawthorns.

West Brom made a bright start and Marc-Antoine Fortune gave them the lead in the eighth minute, pouncing after Chris Kirkland could only parry a powerful effort from Gianni Zuiverloon.

It was 1-1 within 10 minutes, Hugo Rodallega claiming his first goal in English football after his free-kick took a wicked deflection off Chris Brunt.

But the midfielder made amends on the hour, following up to score at the second time of asking after substitute keeper Richard Kingson had saved his initial penalty.

And Fortune wrapped up the win with just over a quarter of an hour remaining to set the home crowd dreaming of yet another great escape after the heroics of 2005.

There was more good news for Tony Mowbray's side, who could have been relegated today if results had gone against them, as Hull were beaten 2-1 by Stoke at the KC Stadium.

The Tigers remain only three points above the relegation zone after goals from Ricardo Fuller and a screamer from Liam Lawrence extended their disastrous sequence of results since the turn of the year.

Fuller struck in the 40th minute, swivelling and firing a powerful effort past Boaz Myhill, and Lawrence doubled Stoke's advantage after 73 minutes with a superb dipping volley before Andy Dawson's late consolation.

The result means the Potters, who were promoted with Hull last year, will definitely be playing in the Premier League next season.

Sunderland, who are also fighting for their lives just outside the bottom three, dominated long periods of their encounter with Bolton at the Reebok Stadium but were unable to find the net.

Kieran Richardson was guilty of wasting their best opportunity in the 24th minute, skying his shot from 12 yards when it appeared easier to score, but Martin Fulop's late stop from Gary Cahill saved the Black Cats from a last-gasp defeat and leaves them in 16th place, five points above the drop zone.

Blackburn put an end to any lingering relegation fears with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth, who are still looking over their shoulder with two games to go.

Morten Gamst Pedersen took advantage of an error by David James to put the hosts in front in the first half and Benni McCarthy settled the issue with a penalty on the hour, while Pompey's John Utaka made a woeful attempt of his spot-kick with three minutes left.

European hopefuls Fulham moved up to seventh spot after condemning Aston Villa to a 3-1 defeat at Craven Cottage.

The hosts went ahead after six minutes when James Milner pushed Diomansy Kamara in the box and Danny Murphy slotted the resulting spot-kick perfectly into the bottom right-hand corner.

Villa equalised after 15 minutes when PFA Young Player of the Year Ashley Young slid in to prod John Carew's cross past Mark Schwarzer.

Fulham wrapped up the points early in the second half, though, through a brace from Kamara, who burst forward to drill the ball home a minute after the restart and executed a cheeky back-heel that deceived Brad Friedel 10 minutes later.

Elsewhere, Everton and Tottenham played out a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park.

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