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Mask drops as Benitez starts to believe

Rafael Benitez claimed Liverpool's last-gasp winner at Fulham was proof of the "winning mentality" his squad has developed in their pursuit of Manchester United.

sports Updated: Apr 05, 2009 07:32 IST

Rafael Benitez claimed Liverpool's last-gasp winner at Fulham was proof of the "winning mentality" his squad has developed in their pursuit of Manchester United.

Yossi Benayoun's 92nd-minute winner sent the Reds to the top of the Premier League for the first time in almost three months and Benitez's uncharacteristic celebratory leap into the air spoke volumes about the significance of the Israel captain's strike.

"It was a very, very important goal at a crucial time," the normally stoic Spaniard explained. "There was relief. You cannot say you will score in the last minute but we always play to the end.

"We have the winning mentality. It is better not to say things but to do things and the players always believe they can score in the last minute."

United, looking to close out a third straight title, retain two games in hand but, after back-to-back defeats by Liverpool and Fulham in their last two outings, their nerve was set to be tested by the visit of Aston Villa to Old Trafford on Sunday.

They may have left it late, but Liverpool deserved their win after hitting the woodwork four times in the first half.

Chelsea remain three points behind the Merseysiders after giving Alan Shearer a painful introduction to the life of a Premier League manager with a 2-0 win at Newcastle.

Shearer was encouraged by the way his side matched their guests for the first 45 minutes but Frank Lampard made the difference after the interval, heading in his side's first then making the second for Florent Malouda.

Despite the defeat Shearer was upbeat. "They gave me fantastic effort and we're going to need every ounce of effort they've got until the end of the season," he said.

"We are not playing Chelsea every week, that's the plus point."

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrated his return to the Arsenal line-up with a double as the Gunners took revenge over Manchester City, the last side to beat them in the league, with a 2-0 win at the Emirates.

It was also a comeback match for Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas, who set up both goals to put manager Arsene Wenger in buoyant mood ahead of the midweek Champions League trip to Villarreal.

"There is a lightness in the team now which I enjoy and we are playing without the handbrake," the Frenchman purred.

Blackburn took a huge step towards ensuring their top flight status with a battling 2-1 win over ten-man Tottenham.

Trailing to Robbie Keane's first-half penalty, Rovers snatched the points with late goals from South Africa striker Benni McCarthy and Dutch defender Andre Ooijer after Wilson Palacios had been sent off for Spurs.

Middlesbrough's chances of survival suffered another hammer blow as a 4-1 defeat at Bolton left Gareth Southgate's second-from bottom side five points from safety.

Gary O'Neil had cancelled out Kevin Davies's early strike to give Boro hope but Gary Cahill restored Bolton's lead just before the break and Matt Taylor and Ricardo Gardner added second-half strikes.

Portsmouth had David James to thank for a goalless draw at Hull, the England goalkeeper producing a superb stop to deny Craig Fagan. Pompey had Glen Johnson sent off with ten minutes left but held out to edge a point further away from the drop zone.

Stoke had an even better day as goals from Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie gave them their first away win of the season -- a 2-0 triumph at bottom side West Brom.

It was also a bleak day for Sunderland, who slipped into the last survival spot, only three points above local rivals Newcastle, after a 2-0 defeat at West Ham in which both goals came from homegrown youngsters, Junior Stanislas and James Tomkins.

First Published: Apr 05, 2009 07:28 IST