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Gerrard leads Villa demolition

LIVERPOOL manager Rafa Benitez urged his players to keep their feet on the ground and told the players they could do even better despite crushing Aston Villa 5-0 on Sunday to underline their title challenge to Manchester United.

Benitez saw his men race to a 3-0 lead at halftime and wrap up the points with their biggest win of the season as they closed the gap on Premier League leader United to one point.

"I felt in the first half we gave the ball away sometimes when we could have played better on the counter-attack. The team was doing well but we could have done better," Benitez said. "We are improving, we have confidence and there are still a lot of games to play. We have to keep our feet on the ground and carry on working hard."

Skipper Steven Gerrard, who scored his first Premier League hat-trick with two of his three goals coming from penalties, echoed his manager's words.

"I think it's important not to carried away," he said.

Liverpool's other goals were scored by Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera, while Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel was sent off for bringing down Fernando Torres.

"Was there an argument for a penalty, sure. Was there an argument for a booking sure, but I think a sending off was very harsh especially as there was a defender alongside him," Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina said.

Liverpool, which last won the title in 1990 and seemed out of contention a few weeks ago, moved on to 64 points from 30 matches.

United lost 0-2 at Fulham on Saturday but has a match in hand. Chelsea, beaten 0-1 at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, slipped back to third on 61 points from its 30 games.

Arsenal, 3-1 winners at Newcastle United on Saturday is fourth on 55 points while Villa, which has now gone eight matches without a win in all competitions, remains fifth on 52 points with its Champions League hopes diminishing by the week.

In Sunday's other Premier League matches, Wigan Athletic climbed from 10th to seventh with an 84th-minute goal from Ben Watson giving it a 1-0 win over Hull City.

Manchester City moved up to 10th with a 1-0 win over Sunderland at Eastlands where Micah Richards headed the only goal in the 57th minute after Robinho missed a first half penalty.

Sunderland, which like Hull, is just above the relegation zone, played with 10 men from the 15th minute after George McCartney was sent off for pulling back Shaun Wright-Phillips.


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