Premier League Roundup, Dec. 29

Fernando Torres’ 50th English Premier League goal in stoppage time

clinched Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Aston Villa and moved his side

to within four points of Champions League berths on Tuesday.

Making his 72nd league appearance, Torres capitalized on a

loose pass from former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock before

drilling a low shot across Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

“We needed to win to be close to the top four. It was a

massive game for us,” Torres said. “Last season we kept working

until the end and got points in extra time, like today.”

The goal ensured the Spain international became the fastest

player in Liverpool history to score a half century of league

goals.

“When you have guys like this in the team you know you can

always snatch it,” captain Steven Gerrard said, pointing to Torres.

“Everyone knows that when Fernando’s on form he’s the best in the

world and we want him to score many more goals like that to get us

into the top four.

“It’s important to build on this and I am sure we will gain a

lot of confidence from this, and there are no excuses now.”

Liverpool moved up to seventh, two points behind sixth-place

Villa and City, and a further two adrift of Tottenham, which was in

the fourth Champions League spot.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had earlier produced two

crucial saves to deny Villa, which was searching for its first home

win over the Reds for nearly 12 years.

Reina kept out a close-range volley from Stewart Downing in

the first half and denied Villa’s top scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor

after he had broken clear midway through the second period.

Liverpool controlled the match at a snowy Villa Park, but

struggled to find a way past Friedel. The American goalkeeper

turned over Gerrard’s curling short from the edge of the area early

on.

Liverpool had a penalty appeal turned down after a challenge

by Villa central defender Richard Dunne on Dirk Kuyt.

In Tuesday’s other match, Bolton threw away a two-goal lead

against Hull and a chance to moved out of the relegation zone as it

was held to 2-2 at home.

Bolton led at halftime through Ivan Klasnic’s shot from the

edge of the penalty area, and the home side looked comfortable

after Kevin Davies headed in another in the 61st.

But Hunt nodded home from Craig Fagan’s cross in the 71st and

a deflected shot leveled the score seven minutes later.

Bolton and Hull both moved four points ahead of bottom-place

Portsmouth, but remain in the bottom three.