Premier League - Liverpool pummel Portsmouth

Eurosport - Mon, 15 Mar 21:45:00 2010

Three goals in six first-half minutes saw Liverpool swagger past Portsmouth 4-1 at Anfield to assume fifth spot in the Premier League table.

2009-10 Premier League Liverpool's Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres celebrate goal against Portsmouth - 0

Attacking the Kop End, Liverpool struck three times as Fernando Torres's opener was swiftly followed by strikes from Ryan Babel, then the equally-derided midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who netted his first goal for the Reds.

Portsmouth survived the expected barrage of second-half pressure from their hosts until the 77th minute, when Torres doubled his tally with a clinical finish, before the beleaguered visitors netted a consolation strike courtesy of Nadir Belhadj.

It was a the lowest attendance for a league match at Anfield in five years as Portsmouth took just 300 travelling fans to Merseyside, and the atmosphere suffered markedly early on as the hosts found their stride.

Liverpool had a fervent appeal for a penalty rejected by referee Stuart Attwell in just the third minute as Torres's fierce cross was inadvertently handled by Ricardo Rocha, and the visitors were already firmly under the cosh.

Jamie Ashdown was handed a late start by Avram Grant after David James failed to prove his fitness, and it was some apprehensive keeping which afforded Torres a simple opener.

Liverpool had failed to score in three of their last four league matches, but it took just 26 minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock. Gerrard capitalised as Ashdown dallied at the back to leave Maxi Rodriguez to slide a neat pass to Torres, who proceeded to slam his 14th league strike of the season beyond the stricken keeper.

Two minutes later, Glen Johnson's marauding run down the right culminated in a raking cross-field ball to Torres, whose lay-off enabled Babel to stab a precise shot beyond Ashdown.

The Anfield crowd only had to wait another four minutes for Liverpool to establish a three-goal cushion as Torres hurtled down the left before a deft back-heel found Gerrard, and Aquilani was presented with an opening for a crisp left-footed finish to beat the Pompey keeper at his near post and break his Liverpool duck.

Babel hit the bar with a rasping strike in the 52nd minute after Emiliano Insua and Gerrard combined on the edge of the penalty area, and Portsmouth looked utterly demoralised and devoid of inspiration.

There was a moment of controversy in the 72nd minute as Gerrard elbowed Michael Brown in the back of the head off the ball, and the Liverpool skipper was immediately withdrawn by Benitez to leave his counterpart to protest vehemently to the referee as Yossi Benayoun was introduced.

Torres grabbed his brace in the 77th minute with a second strike of immense conviction as more insipid defending from Pompey saw the Spaniard beat Ashdown at his near post after cutting in from the right with consummate ease.

The striker departed to a standing ovation as David Ngog was among six substitutions made in a fragmented second half, and Javier Mascherano was left to limp through the final eight minutes after Benitez had made his full allocation.

The match looked to be petering out poorly before Belhadj stole in at the back post to tap home from Quincy Owusu-Abeyie's fierce delivery across the six-yard box two minutes from time, but it was frankly more than the visitors deserved.

Liverpool's seventh successive Premier League victory at Anfield sees Benitez's side assume fifth spot above Manchester City, albeit having played two games more, while Portsmouth's plight becomes evermore hopeless.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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