Liverpool 3 Sunderland 0

Fernando Torres struck twice for Liverpool as they kept pace with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the race for a Champions League berth by thrashing Sunderland 3-0 at Anfield.

Torres netted either side of a Glen Johnson effort to move the Reds up to fifth place in the Premier League table.

The scoreline flattered sorry Sunderland who could have been six down at the break and struggled to make an impact in attack.

The writing was on the wall for the Black Cats as early as the fourth minute when Torres opened the scoring with a sensational goal.

The Spain international turned defender Michael Turner inside out before curling a stunning effort past the reach of keeper Craig Gordon.

Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard both had superb chances to add to Liverpool's tally soon after while Torres was left with his head in his hands after missing a sitter on 20 minutes.

But the Anfield crowd didn't have to wait long for a second goal as Johnson picked the ball up 30 yards from goal before jinking into the box and finding the back of the net via a deflection off the luckless Turner.

It was more of the same after the break as Sunderland were there for the taking and Torres wrapped up the three points on the hour mark when he tapped home Johnson's centre.

Rafa Benitez took off Torres, Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt after the third goal as he looked to see out the game to a comfortable finish.

But former Liverpool winger Bolo Zenden - on as a Sunderland substitute - almost robbed keeper Pepe Reina of a clean sheet with his first touch of the game.

The veteran Dutch midfielder let fly with a right-footed drive but Reina was equal to it as Liverpool preserved their three-goal advantage.