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By ESPN Staff
Jan 30, 2007

Strike duo move Reds closer to Blues

Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch combined to fire Liverpool to within two points of Premiership champions Chelsea as West Ham blew their latest chance to climb out of the drop zone.

The Reds duo both netted sublime goals in tonight's 2-1 win at Upton Park which put the in-form visitors to within touching distance of second place in the table.

After a cat-and-mouse first half, barely 12 seconds had lapsed after the restart when Liverpool scored, Kuyt rifling the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.

It was not long before the lead was doubled, a brilliant flowing move matched by Crouch's controlled finish from John Arne Riise's cutback.

Liverpool looked completely in control and should have added to their lead before substitute Kepa Blanco marked his Hammers debut by pulling a goal back 13 minutes from time.

Some sloppy play from the visitors allowed Nigel Reo-Coker to feed Bobby Zamora into the inside left channel, the forward squaring for Kepa to net with ease.

But, despite piling on the pressure, the home side were unable to force an equaliser and are now seven games without a league success.

The Hammers' evening could not have been in sharper contrast to that of relegation rivals Sheffield United, who beat Fulham 2-0 to move seven points clear of danger.

United bossed the first half at Bramall Lane and were rewarded 23 minutes in when Jon Stead netted his first goal since signing from Sunderland this month.

Vincenzo Montella gave the ball away in a dangerous area, allowing Nick Montgomery to find Stead, who rasped home a left-foot drive off the bar from six yards.

It got better five minutes later, Ian Pearce failing to clear Stephen Quinn's left-wing cross, allowing Michael Tonge to convert from close range.

The Fratton Park faithful were left disappointed for the second straight home game as Portsmouth were held to a goalless draw by Middlesbrough.

Following the shock 1-0 defeat to Charlton 10 days ago, Pompey were looking to reignite their European push but they were thwarted by a stubborn Boro display to remain sixth in the table.

The only bright spot for West Ham was that fourth-bottom Wigan slumped to their ninth straight defeat in all competitions after Reading came from behind to win 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium.

The visitors got off to the best possible start when, three minutes in, Emile Heskey latched onto a long ball from Josip Skoko, and finished with aplomb on the volley left-footed.

Reading eased their way back into the game and drew level when Latics goalkeeper Chris Kirkland found himself in no-man's-land, allowing Ivar Ingimarsson to glance a header into the net.

More awful goalkeeping allowed the Royals to take the lead, Kirkland punching a Glen Little cross straight onto the head of Stephen Hunt, who headed it goalward for Shane long to nod in from point-blank range.

Kirkland completed a hat-trick of howlers in the closing moments, beaten to the ball by Dave Kitson, with the resultant deflection finding Leroy Lita, who could not miss.

Denny Landzaat pulled a goal back for the visitors in the fifth minute of injury-time - but there was no time for them to find an equaliser.