Champions League race hots up

LONDON: Michael Owen scored four goals and Milan Baros struck twice as Liverpool thrashed West Bromwich Albion 6-0 away on Saturday to close the gap on Chelsea in the race for a Champions League place. 

Owen netted his 100th league goal to cap a superb performance against the already-relegated midlands club that took Liverpool level on 64 points with Chelsea, who were held to a 1-1 home draw by west London rivals Fulham but stay above Liverpool in fourth place on goal difference. 

Newcastle United climbed to third on 65 points after a Nolberto Solano penalty was enough for a 1-0 win at rivals Sunderland – who have now lost 13 games in a row. 

Wayne Rooney kept Everton's hopes of a UEFA Cup place on track with an injury time winner in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Goodison Park yesterday. 

Everton boss David Moyes has publicly voiced fears about 17-year-old England striker Rooney playing too many matches but can surely have had no complaints about the local hero's performance on this occasion. 

Villa looked assure of a point when, in the third minute of stoppage time, Rooney struck a fine goal from the edge of the box. 

Afterwards, Moyes told Sky Sports: “We carved out some chances, didn't really finish them but it ended well.” 

And of Rooney making the headlines again this season, Moyes added: “I'm glad he did. He scored a wonderful goal with his left foot from the edge of the box. He played well and inspired us but there were bits of play that made him look as if he was a bit off from where he'd been earlier this season.” 

Rooney's goal was his eighth of the season and went a long way to repairing the damage of Easter defeats by Liverpool and Chelsea, both pushing for Champions League places. 

Marcus Allback gave Villa the lead with a 49th minute strike before former Arsenal forward Kevin Campbell replied for Everton ten minutes later. 

The result kept Everton in fifth place. The only target left for 14th placed Villa is to finish above local rivals Birmingham City. 

But with Premiership new boys Birmingham now 12th after securing their top flight survival with a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough, even that ambition could be beyond Villa. 

In other games, Charlton Athletic beat Southampton 2-1 and Birmingham City beat Middlesbrough 3-0. 

With two games to go, Newcastle are on 65 points and Chelsea and Liverpool share fourth place. Significantly, Chelsea host Liverpool in their final game of the season. 

Owen started the scoring over demoted West Brom with a low, right-foot, 15th minute shot before Liverpool piled on the goals in the second half.  

Milan Baros made it 2-0 in the 47th minute following a Steven Gerrard cross and two minutes later it was 3-0 thanks to Owen sniping from the edge of the six-yard box to bring up his Premier League century.  

The fight went out of relegation-bound West Brom with Owen adding two more in the 61st and 67th minutes before Baros got his second six minutes from time. 

Defeat for Leeds kept them hovering above the relegation zone on 41 points, fifth from bottom. – Agencies 

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