Manchester City handed arch rivals Manchester United a significant advantage in the Premier League title race after earning a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Sunday.
Liverpool could have closed the gap on league leaders United to five points with a victory over City at Anfield, but instead they needed Dirk Kuyt? late equalizer to rescue a draw that left them seven points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson? champions.
A day that started with the news that Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is still refusing to sign a new contract got even worse in the 51st minute when Alvaro Arbeloa deflected Craig Bellamy? shot into his own net.
Kuyt at least stopped Liverpool suffering their first home defeat when he poked home from close-range in the 78th minute.
Benitez insisted Liverpool can still catch United but even he was forced to concede the task is a lot harder now.
? have confidence that we can still win it, but we must win our next two league games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland and then win against Manchester United at Old Trafford,?Benitez said.
?hen we may have a different situation. But I just accept that this has been a bad result and it clearly makes it more difficult for us to win the title,?he said.
?e clearly have to win our games and see where that takes us. And clearly Manchester United are playing well and winning games,?Benitez said.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Newcastle held on for a 0-0 draw at home to Everton despite playing the entire second half a man down after Kevin Nolan? dismissal.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 44th minute when Nolan launched into an ugly studs-up lunge on Everton striker Victor Anichebe, leaving referee Lee Mason with no option but to show a red card to the midfielder.
But Everton lacked the cutting edge required to prise open Newcastle? defense.
The hosts had midfielder Mikel Arteta stretchered off after he ruptured a cruciate ligament in his right knee in the first half. The Spaniard will miss the rest of the season.
A point was a good result for both sides though as it moved Newcastle five points clear of the relegation zone and cemented Everton? position in sixth place.
Fulham striker Bobby Zamora scored for the first time in 21 league matches as the Cottagers defeated struggling West Bromwich Albion 2-0.
Zamora last hit the net in the Premier League in September and he was finally back on the scoresheet with a close-range finish in the 61st minute.
Andy Johnson added the second 11 minutes later after Zamora? shot was blocked by Scott Carson.
Rock bottom Albion? misery was complete when Roman Bednar? stoppage time penalty was saved by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
English Premier League