LONDON (AP) — Liverpool reclaimed top spot in the Premier League after two penalties from captain Steven Gerrard helped his team beat West Ham 2-1 Sunday to remain firmly in the hunt for the club's first league title since 1990.
Liverpool's ninth win in a row restored a two-point lead over Chelsea with five games to play, and also sets up a crucial game against Manchester City next weekend which could go a long way to determining who wins the title.
City is four points behind Liverpool but with two games in hand, meaning that if either team wins all their remaining games, they win the title.
West Ham had won its previous two games to establish a gap to the relegation zone and remained in 11th place after offering tough resistance to the title-chasing visitors.
"We had to stand up and be counted, and we've done that," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said.
Gerrard put Liverpool ahead from the spot in the 44th minute after West Ham defender James Tomkins handled a flick by Luis Suarez in the area.
However, the lead didn't last long. In injury time, West Ham defender Guy Demel equalized when Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet spilled a cross following a challenge from Andy Carroll. The assistant referee initially signaled for a foul on Carroll, but referee Anthony Taylor overruled him after a lengthy discussion, despite protests from the Liverpool players.
Carroll had the best chance in the early exchanges of the second half, hitting the bar with a 62nd-minute header, and the former Liverpool striker often unsettled the visitors' defense with his strong physical presence.
But Gerrard scored his second — and Liverpool's 90th of the season — in the 71st minute after Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan was adjudged to have been brought down by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian following an incisive run into the penalty box.