Torres strikes for Liverpool

Hunts brace helps Hull City hold Bolton Wanderers 2-2

Torres strikes for Liverpool

 Aston Villa’s Carlos Cuellar (left) vies with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres during their English Premier League clash at Villa Park on Tuesday. AFP

The match at a snow covered Villa Park was heading for a goalless draw until Spain striker Torres made the most of a defensive mix-up deep into added-on time with a precise and powerful finish past Brad Friedel.

Victory saw Liverpool leapfrog Birmingham into seventh place and close to within four points of a top four spot that will secure Champions League football next season for the five-times European Cup winners.

Defeat, Villa’s second in as many games after their 3-0 loss away to third-placed Arsenal, left them in sixth place and revived doubts about their ability to sustain a bid to break into the leading quartet after they faltered at a similar stage last season.

Torres’s strike saw him become the quickest Liverpool player to 50 league goals, needing only 72 appearances to reach the landmark.

At the other end of the table, Stephen Hunt was Hull City’s hero with two goals as they came from 2-0 down to share the points in a 2-2 draw away to relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.

Ivan Klasnic and Kevin Davies looked to have secured a win for Bolton that would have lifted the hosts out of the bottom three.

But, Republic of Ireland midfielder Hunt scored in the 71st minute and was on-target again seven minutes later.

The draw did little for either side’s survival prospects, both teams staying in the relegation zone.

Reigning champions Manchester United, currently second, will cut Chelsea’s lead to two points if they win at home to Wigan on Wednesday when Arsenal look to bolster their title challenge away to basement club Portsmouth.

Chelsea incur losses

Chelsea reported losses of 44.4 million pounds ($70.60 million) in the club's end of year results on Wednesday, including a 12.6 million-pound compensation payment to a former manager and his coaching staff.

Chelsea FC chairman said in a statement the remainder of a 340 million-pound loan from its parent company, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, had been turned into equity and had made the group “debt free.”

“The club's debt load has been reduced almost to nil in order to provide more long-term stability,” chairman Bruce Buck said in a statement.

“The reduction will also enable the club to comply with any regulations on debt levels which are being discussed by the football community.” UEFA president Michel Platini revealed financial fair play plans this year to make clubs live within their means by linking spending on players to revenues.

Chelsea's losses fell by 21.3 million pounds to 44.4 million, while turnover was down from 213.1 million to 206.4 million.

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