Reds awesome minus Torres

LIVERPOOL - Liverpool overcame the absence of Fernando Torres to keep alive their Premier League title hopes with a 3-0 victory over relegation-threatened Newcastle at Anfield here yesterday.

LIVERPOOL - Liverpool overcame the absence of Fernando Torres to keep alive their Premier League title hopes with a 3-0 victory over relegation-threatened Newcastle at Anfield here yesterday.

Torres was absent from Rafael Benitez's side after tweaking his hamstring in training on the eve of Liverpool's penultimate home game of the season.

But goals from Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas halved leaders Manchester United's advantage to three points with three games remaining.

United remain clear favourites to win the title for a third successive season as they have a game in hand over second-placed Liverpool.

But Benitez is refusing to concede defeat in the title race, particularly as United still have tricky matches with Manchester City and Arsenal to negotiate.

Liverpool have now taken 22 points from the last 24 on offer after they easily brushed aside Newcastle who were forced to play the final 13 minutes with 10 men after Joey Barton was sent off for a nasty two-footed challenge on Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Alonso was taken off the pitch on a stretcher with a suspected ankle injury and he could miss Liverpool's remaining three league games.

Defeat left Newcastle in deep trouble and in serious danger of dropping out of the Premier League. Liverpool welcomed back captain Steven Gerrard after a four-match absence due to a groin injury.

And after a slow start, they comfortably overcame the loss of Torres, who has scored 16 goals this season, to establish a 2-0 half-time lead which put them within sight of their seventh win in eight league games.

There was a hint of offside when Benayoun broke the deadlock from close range with his eighth goal of the campaign in the 22nd minute, Kuyt's cross hitting the Israel international on the knee before rolling over the line.

Yet if Newcastle felt aggrieved, they only had themselves to blame as Kuyt doubled the lead with a powerful 28th minute header.

The visitors opted to start Michael Owen on the substitutes bench on his return to his former club.

Liverpool made the advantage of an extra man count when substitute Lucas made it 3-0 and there was still time for Gerrard to rattle the woodwork. - Sapa-AFP

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