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Emotions as Reds rise to top

FERNANDO Torres scored twice and Daniel Agger and David Ngog were also on target as Liverpool cruised to a 4-0 English Premier League win over a feeble Blackburn Rovers on an emotional occasion at Anfield yesterday.

The win took Liverpool back to the top of the standings on 70 points. It was two points ahead of Manchester United, which was away to Sunderland later in one of its two games in hand. Chelsea, at home to Bolton Wanderers, was third on 64.

The Anfield game was preceded by a minute's silence for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, which took place 20 years ago next Wednesday, and Blackburn's former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock laid a wreath in front of The Kop.

The number 96 picked out in the floral tribute, marking the number of Liverpool fans crushed to death on April 15, 1989, in a fenced-in standing area of the Sheffield stadium. Liverpool was playing Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semifinals.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lost his 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley at Hillsborough.

After the nail-biting drama of last week when Yossi Benayoun scored in stoppage time to beat Fulham 1-0, yesterday's match was a stroll in the spring sunshine for Liverpool, which had been rocked by its midweek 1-3 Champions League defeat by Chelsea.

The Reds took the lead spectacularly after five minutes when Jamie Carragher lofted a long ball into the box and Torres chested it down before hooking a fierce shot across the goal and into the top corner.

Torres, Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt, brilliantly denied by goalkeeper Paul Robinson, should all have scored before the Spaniard did so again in the 33rd when he leapt well to head in from a Xabi Alonso free kick.

Blackburn, hard-hit by injuries, barely threatened and Liverpool strolled through the second half.

Gerrard, nursing a groin strain, was on the bench but manager Rafa Benitez was able to keep him there to ensure his availability for Tuesday's Champions League return with Chelsea.

The game ended with a flurry of action as Agger unleashed a typical 25-meter shot that flew past Robinson with seven minutes remaining and Ngog came off the bench to nod the fourth in the last minute.

"It's very positive, we needed to play well and score goals," Benitez told Sky Sports. "We didn't concede and I'm pleased we scored four but it should have been even better as we missed chances in both halves."


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