will fight for second
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Rafael Benitez promises that Liverpool will keep up the
pressure on Manchester United for runners-up spot, but does
not expect the Old Trafford men to slip up now.
Liverpool eventually cruised to a 3-1 victory over Aston
Villa that saw them on equal points with United, and a goal
difference of four worse.
With United having two home games to finish the season, the
Anfield chief does not really expect to see his side
But Benitez said: "First of all I must congratulate Chelsea,
they have done a really good job to win the title.
"We will keep working to be second, but I do not really
expect United to slip up with two home games left.
"It will be difficult for us, and we are close to them now.
But they must lose and we must win our last game at
Portsmouth and cut back their goal difference.
"We must wait and see what happens in midweek but we will
Benitez hailed two-goal hero Steven Gerrard, saying: "You
saw the best of Gerrard, he took the game to a different
level after they had equalised.
"We must thank him for the win. When you are in that
position you need your best players with quality to get you
through, and Steven has all those attributes."
Beaten "by a world class player"
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Aston Villa boss David O'Leary insisted that his future
remains at the club, after claiming the Midlanders had been
beaten "by a world class player" in Gerrard.
He said: "You can bet that I will be manager next season.
People in the game know what is happening at this club and
the big expectations at Villa.
"But I was unable to do anything in the last transfer
window, we have had to use the youngsters and dig in to get
ourselves across the line.
"We budget for 10th or 12th place, and we have not done that
so this has not been a good season. We will give another
couple of youngsters their chance before the end of the
season and we have had to rely on our youngsters.
"If someone else comes into the club and has money and wants
to change things, so be it. But I am not expecting it.
"I was told a few days ago that I must sell before I can
buy, and that is what will happen. The good thing is that we
have had to use the youngsters and they have done well, they
will be part of our future."
O'Leary added: "We have been giving away soft goals, and did
it again for their first one. It was lack of experience, the
second was poor marking and the third was just a brilliant
goal from a world class player."
Gerrard at the double for Reds
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Liverpool boosted their hopes of finishing second with a
3-1 win over Aston Villa at Anfield.
The Reds ensured they finished their season at Anfield in
style with two second half strikes from Steven Gerrard
helping them to their tenth win on the trot.
Gareth Barry cancelled out Fernando Morientes's early opener
before Gerrard took control to move Liverpool level on
points with Manchester United in the battle to finish
Liverpool got off to a perfect start, breaking the deadlock
after just four minutes through Morientes with their first
serious attack of the game.
The goal was made in Spain with Xabi Alonso sending
Morientes clear on goal and the former Real Madrid man
turned Gary Cahill inside out before sweeping his
left-footed shot low past Thomas Sorensen.
Peter Crouch had a half chance three minutes later with an
acrobatic overhead kick which Sorensen comfortably
Villa captain Olof Mellberg had the first chance for the
visitors on nine minutes when he headed James Milner's
corner wide of the target.
Gerrard forced Sorensen into a good save on 16 minutes with
a fierce strike from the edge of the area which the Dane
saved low down to his right.
Villa missed a great chance to draw level on 35 minutes when
James Milner - from inside his own half - burst past two
Liverpool challenges and crossed at the far post for Barry
who headed his effort into the ground and over the crossbar.
Djimi Traore came close to scoring on 36 minutes when he
latched onto Crouch's flick inside the box, but his poked
shot was cleared away from right under his own crossbar by
John Arne Riise tried his luck on 38 minutes when he took
Jan Kromkamp's pass in his stride and sliced a right-footed
shot well wide of the target.
Liverpool skipper Gerrard had the last chance of the half on
43 minutes when Riise chested Kromkamp's cross into his
path, but the midfielder blazed his shot well over the top.
Villa replaced Milan Baros at the break with Juan Pablo
Angel and they started the second half in determined
Liverpool almost gifted them a goal on 48 minutes when Jose
Reina kicked his clearance against Angel and he had to rush
back and collect the ball in front of his own goal much to
his own relief.
Crouch had a good chance for Liverpool on 50 minutes when
Djibril Cisse sped past Mellberg down the right and crossed
for Crouch inside the box, but the England striker hit his
left-footed shot off target.
Morientes went close to scoring his second of the game
minutes later when Crouch headed the ball down into the path
of his strike partner and he hit a left-footed half volley
which Sorensen did well to keep out.
Villa drew level on 58 minutes when Aaron Hughes broke down
the right and sent over a dangerous cross which Angel
somehow missed at the front post, but Barry was on hand to
slot home from close range.
The visitors really should have gone in front a minute later
when Milner robbed Sami Hyypia of possession to send Gabriel
Agbonlahor clear on goal, but with only Reina to beat the
youngster curled his shot wide.
Liverpool made him pay for that miss just past the hour mark
when Gerrard met Alonso's corner at the near post to flick
the ball past Sorensen.
The newly crowned PFA Player of the Year then put the game
beyond Villa on 66 minutes with a stunning strike.
Gerrard picked up a pass from Morientes 30 yards from goal
and the midfielder lashed an unstoppable shot into the top
corner past a despairing dive from Sorensen.
Reina denied Villa a second goal on 70 minutes when he
produced a fine reaction stop to keep out Barry's deflected
Liverpool substitute Robbie Fowler almost got in on the act
on 79 minutes when Gerrard picked him out inside the box and
the striker hit his right-footed shot just wide of the
Villa substitute Craig Gardner had a chance to reduce the
arrears in the dying seconds when the ball broke to him
inside the box, but Reina was quickly off his line to block