LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge scored twice in a 4-0 win over Everton in the 222nd Merseyside derby on Tuesday, strengthening the club's place in the Premier League's top four.
Captain Steven Gerrard headed Liverpool in front in the 21st minute before Sturridge netted twice in quick succession and Luis Suarez scored his 23rd league goal of the season just after halftime.
Sturridge missed out on a hat trick when he sent a penalty kick over the crossbar after Raheem Sterling was brought down by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
But with four goals, Liverpool moved four points clear of Everton to stay fourth in the chase for Champions League qualification.
"That's our target and it's been our target since preseason," Gerrard said. "We've got two world-class forwards and against anyone we've got a chance."
Gerrard endured a miserable 45 minutes on his last appearance at Anfield in a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa but dictated the tone against Everton.
The midfielder led from the front and his influence plus Liverpool's superior firepower meant Everton never stood a chance.
Liverpool created all the early chances with Jordan Henderson, Sturridge and Suarez, twice, denied by Howard.
The breakthrough came when Suarez whipped in a corner and Gerrard cleverly lost marker Gareth Barry to power home a near-post header which James McCarthy on the line could not keep out.
Gerrard wheeled away to celebrate with Suarez and that prompted some items to be thrown from the section of visiting fans in the Anfield Road end.
It was to prove a double blow for Everton as Barry's attempts to re-engage with Gerrard at the corner saw him clatter into teammate Romelu Lukaku, resulting in the striker being carried off on a stretcher.
Phil Jagielka forced Simon Mignolet into a good save and Kevin Mirallas fired wide but the momentum was all with the hosts and Philippe Coutinho's diagonal pass sent Sturridge sprinting from the halfway line and his pace took him well clear to clip past Howard in the 33rd minute.
Sturridge's second came inside two minutes. From Kolo Toure's long ball forward, the striker hooked a lob almost over his shoulder to easily beat Howard.
For all the talk of Liverpool's creaking back line — with four first-choice defenders out injured — it coped easily with an Everton attack now missing Lukaku.
But Toure had to produce a great recovering tackle to force Mirallas wide and Mignolet saved at his near post.
Everton needed a positive start to the second half but, having replaced Steven Pienaar with Leon Osman, blew it five minutes in.
Jagielka's misjudgment on the halfway line gave Suarez the minimal opening he required and the Uruguay striker raced 50 yards with both Everton center backs trailing in his wake to slot past Howard.
Gerrard generously gave Sturridge the chance to complete his hat trick when Sterling was brought down by the goalkeeper but the England striker sent his penalty into the stand.
"I take responsibility for that," Gerrard said. "I've scored a hat trick against Everton and I wanted Daniel to experience that feeling. I'm sure the disappointment will see him strive to do better."