Reds cruise as Blues lose

Spaniard strikes again to put Liverpool in control of fourth

On an afternoon when more than Merseyside rivalry was at stake, Liverpool demonstrated they have the edge over Everton as Fernando Torres again proved the match-winner at Anfield.

Everton's bid to usurp Liverpool in fourth has in the past few weeks faded and again on Sunday their exertions were languid, as Liverpool will feel they should have added to Torres' first half strike.

When the goal arrived it was Yakubu Aiyegbeni who proved the inadvertent architect, as his dawdling in possession on the edge of his own box allowed Xabi Alonso and then Dirk Kuyt to feed in Torres. The Spaniard rarely misses and again his finish was unerring.

Kuyt missed a glorious chance from close range as he directed a header wide, before Steven Gerrard rattled the post with a trademark strike from distance.

Jose Reina, in Liverpool's goal, will rarely have an easier afternoon as he was not unduly troubled at any stage of the most comfortable of derby wins.

Bright start

Inside the first minute Liverpool worked half an opening down the right with Kuyt and Gerrard but when the captain crossed low to Torres the Spaniard's control, for once, let him down and the ball ran off the pitch.

A swift counter-attack from an Everton throw-in saw Lucas release Ryan Babel down the left and although his cross was disappointing Liverpool were able to win a seventh-minute corner and take the lead.

Gerrard's cross was half-cleared and when Alonso nicked the ball off Yakubu, Kuyt transferred it to Torres who clipped a shot past Tim Howard for his 21st league goal of the season.

The first tackle worthy of this famous derby came a minute later and it earned Lee Carsley a booking for hacking down Torres, although Gerrard curled the 20-yard free-kick wide.

The pressure was all Liverpool's and in the 16th minute they could have gone further ahead when Torres' pass inside saw Kuyt's shot blocked by the diving Tony Hibbert with the Dutchman's follow-up producing a low save from Howard.

Everton's frustration at not being able to get a grip a foothold in the game was growing and Phil Neville was booked for a late challenge on Lucas in the 18th minute.

Liverpool should have gone further ahead in the 28th minute when Rise's hanging cross from the left dropped invitingly for Babel but he failed to connect from close range.

When Phil Jagielka fouled Torres wide on the right Gerrard curled in a free-kick which Leon Osman headed over his own crossbar under pressure from Lucas.

The hosts got sloppy in the last 10 minutes of the half, needlessly giving the ball away to allow Everton to get themselves into the game.

Sami Hyypia's foul on Yakubu wide on the right gave Arteta the chance to deliver a dangerous free-kick to the far post where Lescott headed against the Finn but the visiting fans' calls for handball were optimistic.

At the other end a stinging Gerrard volley rebounded back off the post after Torres had headed the ball back into his path.

Lull in action

Gerrard's raking 50-yard crossfield ball allowed Jamie Carragher to head on to Torres but when he laid it off to Kuyt he volleyed wide just before the interval.

Everton started the second half brighter and Yakubu won a corner off Hyypia in the 49th minute but Jose Reina punched clear and as Babel tried to break he was chopped down by Steven Pienaar, earning the South African a booking.

There was some alarm, however, when Arteta swung in a left-wing free-kick but Osman, under pressure, diverted the ball wide.

Jagielka was booked in the 71st minute for a high foot on Gerrard, before Moyes made his second change in replacing Neville with Baines.

Kuyt curled a 20-yard shot just wide before Torres was booked for time-wasting in the closing stages.

Gerrard's long-range effort forced Howard to tip the ball wide in the final minute of normal time as the hosts held on for an important win.