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Sun 3 Feb 2008 07:36 AM

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Sunderland tonic lifts spirits of Liverpool

Steven Gerrard has insisted the club are confident after a 3-0 win over Sunderland.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insisted the club can look ahead to this weekend's showdown with Chelsea and the rest of the season with confidence after a 3-0 win over Sunderland.

The win ended a run of five Premiership matches without a win for Rafa Benitez's side, a sequence dating back to December 26, and was just the fifth home league success of a frustrating campaign.

Second-half goals from Peter Crouch, Fernando Torres and a Gerrard penalty sealed the three points after it appeared that Liverpool might be destined for another frustrating afternoon.

But Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, who set up the important opening goal for Crouch, were in no doubt that the emphatic final scoreline can carry their team through to a successful remainder of the season.

Gerrard said: "It was important to get a win and a clean sheet but we can still play better than that. Winning breeds confidence and we have been lacking confidence lately."

"If individuals don't have confidence, then they don't perform but we have a big game with Chelsea when we get back from international duty and we can go into it with new confidence.

"Carragher added: "We hadn't won for five games, which isn't a great run, but results have gone for us today. That is a tough game with Chelsea coming up but although we're not in the title race any more we have to make sure we claim the fourth place for the Champions League."

Benitez also paid tribute to the clean sheet kept by Jose Reina who, on his 92nd appearance for the club, became the quickest Liverpool keeper to 50 clean sheets -- beating the previous mark of 95 held by the legendary Ray Clemence.

"This was an important win for us," said Benitez.

"Confidence was low, now this result can be good for everybody. Scoring three goals, keeping a clean sheet and a record in the history of the club, there were a lot of positive things.

"I have to thank the supporters for being behind the team. We needed to be patient and they were with us. As soon as we scored the first goal you could see the celebrations and everyone pushing on together."

"In the first half, Sunderland had more energy and were defending well. We were controlling the game and attacking but, after Crouch scored the first goal, everybody was playing better."

"He had another chance, you could see Torres and the rest of the players playing better, with more options."

Sunderland manager Roy Keane, a veteran of so many great Anfield encounters in his days as a Manchester United player, was angered by a strong penalty appeal that was rejected by referee Rob Styles after an apparent handball by Carragher.

Earlier this season at Anfield, Styles was demoted from the Premiership list after he was proved to have made a crucial mistake by awarding Chelsea a penalty decision.

Keane said: "Of course we should have had a penalty but I don't think we were ever going to get a penalty here today.

"Rob refereed the Chelsea game here a few months ago and was demoted for a penalty he gave against Liverpool, so even though Carragher held his hands up in the area we were never going to get it."

"We had (Premiership referee) Howard Webb in at our training ground this week explaining that what he did would be a penalty because Rob Styles gave a penalty against us against Blackburn this season for exactly the same thing. But we were never going to get a penalty here. Never."

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