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English Premiership

Liverpool crush Sunderland

LIVERPOOL, March 29 – Rafael Benitez is convinced Liverpool can still finish fourth in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League after Fernando Torres's double inspired a 3-0 win over Sunderland.

The Reds were simply unstoppable at Anfield on Sunday and produced one of their best performances of the season as they cruised past Steve Bruce’s side.

The victory moved Liverpool above Manchester City into fifth place in the Premier League, four points behind fourth placed Tottenham.

Harry Redknapp’s side have a game in hand on Liverpool but they have to play Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in their next three fixtures and Benitez believes his side are in the mood to mount a strong finish to the season.

"I’m confident if we keep working hard and playing as well as we did here we will be there," Benitez said.

"The players have confidence, we played very well from the beginning and could have scored three or four goals in the first half.

"As a team we were stronger, and it was an ideal situation for us, now we need to keep pushing.

"It’s good to see the fans happy and the players putting in this performance."

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Torres set the standard for Liverpool’s display as early as the third minute as he looked up on the edge of the box and curled home a stunning effort that left Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon no chance.

The goal sparked Benitez’s men into a dominant performance and it could easily have become an embarrassment for Sunderland if Liverpool had taken their first-half chances.

Torres missed one effort from six yards out and also hit the post while Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger also squandered decent opportunities from close range.

However, the game was essentially sealed after 32 minutes when a Glen Johnson shot took a huge deflection off Michael Turner to make it 2-0.

After the break, Liverpool continued to pour forward and Torres scored his seventh goal in just four games when he clipped past Gordon on the hour.

If Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel had not also missed good chances, Liverpool would have won by at least five goals but by then it did not matter.

Benitez added: "We could have scored three of four in the first half.

"We had less tempo after the break but we still played well and had chances. We know that we have to keep going and that it will be difficult but we have to try.

"The players have confidence and if we can play at this level I’m sure we will win more games."

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Bruce admitted Sunderland had been comprehensively outplayed and he praised Torres for his stylish display.

"Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a far better team," he said.

"They got off to a wonderful start and when Torres and Gerrard are in that sort of mood it became very difficult for us.

"Sometimes you take a beating and say ‘we were beaten by a good team.’

"We all know Torres is a class act when he plays like that. He looks as fresh as a daisy and he is a fantastic centre-forward, it was his day and he takes some stopping.

"Were we that bad or were they that good? At least we had the resilience to stay in the match otherwise it could have been an embarrassment so that is a positive for us."

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