English Soccer: Yossi sends Liverpool top of the league

Israel captain Benayoun returns from international duty to score winner.

benayoun celebrates liverpool 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
benayoun celebrates liverpool 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Liverpool substitute Yossi Benayoun scored in stoppage time Saturday to secure a 1-0 victory at Fulham that piles more pressure on defending champion Manchester United in the title race. While the victory at Craven Cottage took Liverpool two points clear at the top of the Premier League, United has two games in hand and hosts Aston Villa on Sunday. Liverpool, which routed both United and Villa before the two-week international break, looked set to squander the title lifeline those results provided in a frustrating match at Fulham. But after hitting the frame four times in the first half, Liverpool finally got a lucky bounce in the second minute of stoppage time. Fulham defender Brede Hangeland challenged Steven Gerrard for the ball at the top of the area, and the ball fell to a wide-open Benayoun to fire into the net. It was the Israeli's first club match in a month after an injury layoff. "It's a massive three points - we knew a defeat or a draw was no good for us," Gerrard said. "We had to let United know they are in for a title fight until the end." Chelsea is also still in that fight, going within a point of United with a 2-0 victory at Newcastle as former Magpies captain Alan Shearer began his eight-match reign as manager. Second-half goals from Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda allowed Chelsea to dampen the euphoria surrounding the return of Shearer, Newcastle's all-time leading scorer, in a bid to haul the club out of the relegation zone. "We knew this new impulse with the homecoming of Alan Shearer would give them a lot of energy, but we spoiled the party and got rid of the energy," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said. "They were no big danger for us." Ailing Newcastle struggled to match the visitors' skill and fluency as Shearer saw the full scope of the task he faces while filling in until the end of the season for Joe Kinnear, who is recovering from heart surgery. "We worked very, very hard and contained them in the first half, but the second half came back to bite us," said Shearer, the fourth man to take charge of Newcastle this season. "We made a mistake and got punished for it and you don't want to go gung-ho because you're playing against a very good team. We'll have to step up our quality, but we're not playing Chelsea every week." Newcastle stayed third from bottom, two points adrift of Sunderland which lost 2-0 at West Ham. West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough, who occupy the bottom two places, were also beaten. In the chase for Champions League places, Arsenal strengthened its grip on fourth with Emmanuel Adebayor's double providing a 2-0 victory over Manchester City. The forward was playing in his first game for the Gunners after a two-month injury layoff. Stoke's survival prospects were helped by winning for the first time away from home this season at bottom-place West Brom. The victory moved Stoke six points clear of Newcastle. Ricardo Fuller put Stoke ahead after just two minutes with a strike under diving goalkeeper Scott Carson and James Beattie completed a 2-0 win in the 49th. Middlesbrough remain 19th in the 20-team standings after being routed 4-1 at Bolton. Gary O'Neil did cancel out Kevin Davies' opener, but Gary Cahill put Bolton back in front before half time. Matt Taylor and Ricardo Gardner added late goals. Junior Stanislas, 19, scored on his first West Ham start and 20-year-old James Tomkins added another to give West Ham a 2-0 victory over Sunderland. Blackburn moved four points clear of the relegation zone, stunning 10man Tottenham with two late goals to come from behind and produce a 2-1 win. Hull and Portsmouth played out a 0-0 draw.