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Gerrard can fire our football title challenge says Benitez

SoccerNews in English Premier League 24 Aug 2008

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Rafa Benitez believes Steven Gerrard's ferocious will to win can fire Liverpool's Premier League title challenge after the England midfielder clinched a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

Benitez's side looked to be heading for a first league defeat at Anfield since December when Egyptian forward Mido scored in the 70th minute on Saturday.

But, with just four minutes left, Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz deflected Jamie Carragher's shot into his own net.

That set the stage for Liverpool captain Gerrard to conjure up another moment of last-minute magic as he slammed a superb shot into the top corner to send the Reds top of the table with two successive wins.

“It was Gerrard who showed the winning mentality, he has done that so many times from a similar position,” Benitez said. “Many other players would have put it high over the bar, but you know Gerrard will hit the target.

“Last season we were drawing these games. This season we haven't played really well but we've won two games and have six points.”

Arsenal's title challenge suffered an early blow as Brede Hangeland gave Fulham a 1-0 win over the Gunners at Craven Cottage.

Norway defender Hangeland stunned Arsene Wenger's side in the 21st minute when he stabbed home Jimmy Bullard's cross to net his first goal for the Cottagers.

With injured midfielder Cesc Fabregas absent again, Arsenal struggled to find their rhythm and only Emmanuel Adebayor, whose first half header hit a post, came close to salvaging a point.

Djibril Cisse made an instant impact for Sunderland as the France forward's late strike on his debut sealed a 2-1 win at Tottenham.

Cisse, who joined on loan from Marseille this week, scored 18 minutes after coming on at White Hart Lane after Jermaine Jenas had cancelled out Kieran Richardson's opener for Roy Keane's side.

It was another dispiriting day for Spurs boss Juande Ramos, who dropped Dimitar Berbatov because he believes the Bulgarian striker has not been focused enough since asking for a transfer in an attempt to force a move to Manchester United.

Richardson broke the deadlock in the 55th minute with a fierce long-range effort. Jenas levelled in the 73rd minute but Cisse condemned Tottenham to a second successive defeat in the 83rd minute.

“It's good to look over my shoulder and see a scoring option like Cisse on the bench,” Keane said. “He's got good presence and pace. When that cross came in, sometimes it's written in the stars.”

Michael Owen celebrated his return to fitness in style as the Newcastle striker clinched a 1-0 win over Bolton.

Owen, who contracted mumps during pre-season, missed Newcastle's opening weekend draw with a calf injury, but the England star was back on the scoresheet 18 minutes after coming off the bench at St James' Park.

Bolton had a glorious chance to go ahead when Steven Taylor handled a cross midway through the second half, but Shay Given saved Kevin Nolan's spot-kick.

Owen made Nolan pay with a typically predatory header from Geremi's cross in the 71st minute.

Stoke claimed their first top-flight victory since 1985 as Mamady Sidibe's stoppage time strike beat Aston Villa 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium.

Tony Pulis's side took the lead in the 30th minute when Liam Lawrence stroked home a penalty.

John Carew equalised in the 63rd minute before Ricardo Fuller restored Stoke's lead in the 80th minute.

Laursen struck for Villa with six minutes to play, but Sidibe had the last word when he steered home to send the Stoke fans wild.

Leon Osman lifted the gloom around Everton as the midfielder's goal set up a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion.

David Moyes is unhappy at the club's failure to back him in the transfer market and the Toffees lost at home to Blackburn last week.

But Osman gave Moyes some much-needed respite when he buried Mikel Arteta's pass in the 65th minute.

Nigeria striker Ayegbeni Yakubu put the result beyond doubt in the 76th minute. Roman Bednar's 89th minute penalty was too little too late for Albion.

Hull's impressive start to their first top-flight campaign continued as Richard Garcia earned a 1-1 draw against Blackburn.

Phil Brown's side, who beat Fulham last week, fell behind at Ewood Park when Jason Roberts punished slack defending from the visitors in the 38th minute.

But Australian forward Garcia drew Hull level two minutes later with a header from Craig Fagan's cross.

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