LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez is refusing to give up hope of snatching fourth place after a convincing win kept the Reds on the heels of their rivals for a Champions League spot.
Yossi Benayoun struck first against his former team, who now lie just three points above the relegation zone, with David Ngog and a Robert Green own goal completing the scoring.
Victory moved Liverpool to within five points of fourth-placed Tottenham, albeit having played a game more, but knowing that Spurs still have to play Manchester United and Manchester City.
Benitez said: “We have to keep doing our job. It will be more difficult now because Tottenham won [against Chelsea]. Normally you would not expect them to win. But we have to be in a good position if they make a mistake.
West Ham, meanwhile, are now dangling above the bottom three – one win above Hull, who have a game in hand – and face a pivotal survival battle against Wigan at Upton Park on Saturday.
Manager Gianfranco Zola, who has cut an increasingly exasperated figure on the touchline, looks likely to leave his post at the end of the season, whether the Hammers stay up or not.
“We can’t pretend it was our best performance and the players know that,” he said. “The first goal changed everything and, for some reason, they didn’t seem to think they could come back from it. But this isn’t the moment for dwelling on things, because we need a reaction against Wigan on Saturday.”
Benayoun put Liverpool in front in unorthodox fashion in the 19th minute, diverting the ball past Green with his midriff from six yards out after Steven Gerrard delivered from the right.
Ngog doubled the lead before half-time with a fierce half-volley from a Maxi Rodriguez cross, and from then on Liverpool coasted.
The third came on the hour when Sotirios Krygiakos touched Gerrard’s free-kick onto the post and the ball rebounded off Green’s leg and in.