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Liverpool beat West Ham 2-1 to retake top spot

By Agencies - Apr 06,2014 - Last updated at Apr 06,2014

LONDON — Liverpool reclaimed top spot in the Premier League after two penalties from captain Steven Gerrard helped his team beat West Ham 2-1 Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

Gerrard put Liverpool ahead from the spot in the 44th minute after West Ham defender James Tomkins handled a flick by Luis Suarez in the area. 

However, the lead didn't last long. 

In injury time, West Ham defender Guy Demel equalised when Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet spilled a cross following a challenge from former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll. 

The assistant referee initially signalled for a foul on Carroll, but referee Anthony Taylor overruled him after a lengthy discussion, despite protests from the Liverpool players.

Carroll had the best chance in the early exchanges of the second half, hitting the bar with a 62nd-minute header.

Gerrard scored his second in the 71st minute after Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan was adjudged to have been brought down by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, according to AP.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was held scoreless but proved a constant menace to the West Ham defence and rattled the bar with two audacious chips in either half.

Liverpool's ninth straight victory put them two points ahead of Chelsea. Manchester City are another two points behind but they have two games in hand, and travel to Liverpool next Sunday in a game that may play a crucial role in determining which team wins the title.

Much of Liverpool's success this season has been based on their form at home. However, they have now won six of their last seven league games away.

In an earlier match, Everton crushed a woeful Arsenal side 3-0 at Goodison Park to boost their chances of a top four finish and a possible place in next season's Champions League for the first time in nine seasons, Reuters reported.

Everton's sixth successive Premier League win based on an outstanding all-round team performance meant that although they stayed in fifth place, one behind Arsenal, they are only a point behind the Gunners with a match in hand in the tight race for fourth spot.

Arsenal have 64 points from 33 matches and Everton 63 from 32, followed by Manchester United (57 from 33). 

Goals from Steven Naismith, who followed up a rebound off the legs of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to score after 14 minutes, a superb solo effort from Romelu Lukaku after 34 and a third after 62 when a Kevin Mirallas shot went in off Arsenal's former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta for an own goal, sent Arsenal crashing to another heavy defeat on Merseyside two months after they lost 5-1 at Liverpool.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard told the BBC: "It was one of the signature performances since I have been at the club. The fans have waited all season for a blockbuster performance and this was the one.

"We would like to believe we can finish in the top four — we have got to believe that we can."

Everton manager Roberto Martinez told the BBC: "Today we had to be perfect in everything we did... It was a very good performance, to have a clean sheet through the 90 minutes with the quality
Arsenal has."

His Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger said: "Everton were better, sharper and deserved to win. The only time we looked like getting back into the game was in the second half, then we gave an easy goal away and that
 was it."

"It will be difficult to finish in the top four but first we have to focus on the quality of our performance."

Arsenal last failed to play in the Champions League in 1997-98, but in this form, their record is under serious threat and the only bright moment in a gloomy afternoon was the re-appearance of Aaron Ramsey as a second half substitute after being out for almost three months injured, Reuters said.

Everton took part in the qualifiers in the 2005-06 season but were eliminated and have never played in the Champions League proper.

Arsenal will need a massive improvement in the closing weeks of the season to stop Everton finishing above them.

They posed little to worry the Everton defence apart from a rasping late shot from substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which Howard tipped on to the bar.

Their gloom was completed with Mathieu Flamini's 10th booking of the season ruling him out of next weekend's FA Cup semifinal against holders Wigan Athletic at Wembley.

Yaya Sanogo had the ball in the net in the dying minutes, but even then the luck went against the hapless Gunners as he was ruled offside when he may have been onside.

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