- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Steven Gerrard scored a hat trick Sunday, sending Liverpool past Aston Villa 5-0 and within a point of first-place Manchester United in the Premier League.

Having routed United 4-1 last weekend, Liverpool took full advantage of the champions losing 2-0 at Fulham on Saturday. United has 65 points after 29 games; Liverpool has 64 after 30 games. Chelsea, which lost 1-0 at Tottenham on Saturday, has 61.

This was Liverpool’s biggest win of the season and came days after manager Rafa Benitez signed a five-year contract. It will also revive hopes that the Spaniard can end the club’s 19-year wait for its 19th English title.

Dirk Kuyt took just eight minutes to score against a Villa team that is chasing one of the four Champions League spots.

Villa’s miserable afternoon at Anfield was compounded when U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel was sent off for bringing down Fernando Torres as he surged forward to meet Xabi Alonso’s ball.

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