Rafa’s Rampant Reds charge back into the title race

Gerrard scores a penalty on the way to a superb hat-trick vs Aston Villa

Gerrard scores a penalty on the way to a superb hat-trick vs Aston Villa

A STEVEN Gerrard hat-trick inspired Liverpool to an emphatic 5-0 victory over Aston Villa to seal a perfect fortnight for Rafael Benitez’s men.

The Red’s cruised past an off form Villa side to take full advantage of Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Fulham yesterday. Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes before Albert Riera fired home off the underside of the bar after latching on to a long kick from Reds keeper Pepe Reina.

The game was out of the visitors’ sight six minutes later, when Gerrard slotted home a controversial penalty after Riera was fouled by Nigel Reo Coker. The Liverpool captain then beat Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel with a fine freekick shortly after the break, and stepped up to complete his hat-trick and his second penalty of the game on the 65 minute mark, when Friedel was harshly dismissed after bringing down Fernando Torres inside the box.

The demolition leaves Liverpool one point behind the leaders, having played a game more. In what could be a pivotal weekend in the destination of the Premier League title, Man United had Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes sent off while Dimitar Berbatov hobbled off with an injury and Chelsea lost 1-0 to a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur.

Benitez’s men, on the other hand, have steamrolled to thirteen goals in a difficult three game period. They comfortably put four past Real Madrid at Anfield before coming from a goal down to complete a sensational 4-1 victory over the League leaders at Old Trafford. Aston Villa came in search for a crucial win to keep their Champions League ambitions alive before being hit for five by the rampant Reds.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are still in the driving seat despite two consecutive league defeats and have the quality and the experience to deliver. But any more slip ups and the Anfield faithful will believe that the search for their first ever Premier League title could come to an end.

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