Liverpool win Merseyside derby
Liverpool have boosted their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Everton in a passionate Merseyside derby.
Everton's Australian midfielder Tim Cahill capitalised with a fine strike on 82 minutes but Liverpool held on during a thrilling finale for a priceless win in the race to finish fourth. They now trail Everton by only four points.
Birmingham City beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Midlands derby and two Peter Crouch goals hauled Southampton out of the relegation zone, giving them a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough.
Chelsea moved ever closer to the league title after Saturday's 4-1 rout of Crystal Palace, maintaining an 11-point lead over Manchester United, who beat Fulham 1-0, and a 13-point lead over champions Arsenal, who edged Blackburn Rovers 1-0.
However, Sunday's spotlight was trained on Merseyside and the battle for England's final slot in the Champions League qualifying round.
Everton kept hold of that prized fourth place on 51 points despite their defeat, but the lead was cut to four points over fifth-placed Liverpool and to five points over Bolton Wanderers with eight games to play.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, whose men are through to a quarter-final with Juventus in this season's Champions League, told Sky Sports News: "I'm delighted with the players and the supporters. It's a fantastic victory for the club.
"We were losing players (to injury) every 20 minutes and in the end with 10 men it was a fantastic job. Luis had an ankle problem and it was almost like playing with nine men." As for denying Everton fourth slot, he added: "We put pressure on them today and we will try do the same in the next games."
Everton manager David Moyes said: "I thought Liverpool were very good, excellent in the first half. They competed, they put us under pressure and they showed that they wanted a game."
Liverpool knew it was a must-win game and Gerrard rose to the occasion in the 27th minute, lashing his shot below the Everton wall after Dietmar Hamann had nudged a free kick to him on the edge of the area.
The second followed five minutes later after a speculative long shot by Spaniard Fernando Morientes was parried on to the crossbar by Everton goalkeeper Nigel Martyn and Garcia headed the rebound into an empty net.
Liverpool were cruising until Baros, who had missed two glaring chances to score, was sent off for a wild, high challenge on Everton skipper Alan Stubbs.
Cahill reduced the arrears with a low shot on the bounce but Liverpool held on.
It was a much more tame affair at St Andrews in the Midlands derby which was effectively decided by a goalkeeping blunder.
Birmingham took a deserved lead after 52 minutes when Emile Heskey powered past two defenders and Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen let the striker's near-post shot slip beneath him.
Midfield substitute Julian Gray made it 2-0 in the 89th minute, pouncing on sloppy defending to steer home a shot from close range and give City their second 'double' over their local rivals in three seasons.
City manager Steve Bruce felt his team had made amends after losing 2-0 to relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion in another Midlands derby a fortnight ago.
"They owed everybody who supports this club a performance after West Brom and today they're forgiven," he said.
Southampton moved just outside the drop zone, swapping places with Palace, after Crouch scored twice in seven minutes midway through the second half at the Riverside to secure their first away win of the season.
Southampton, who took the lead through Andreas Jakobsson before being pegged back by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's equaliser in the first half, are now 17th on 27 points.
Palace have 26 points, followed by West Brom on 24 and Norwich City on 20.