Steven Gerrard claimed his first hat trick in the Premier League when he converted a penalty kick to give Liverpool a 5-0 win after Friedel was sent off for taking down Fernando Torres in the box.
"You score two goals, three goals, four goals, and after they go down to 10 players, it is really important to take your chances because you never know what can happen with goal difference," Benoite's said. "We were playing against 10 men and we had three or four chances to score more on the counter. We could do better. It's something you can improve. Today it wasn't the key, but on some days it matters."
Liverpool's win and Manchester United's 2-0 loss at Fulham left the Reds one point behind United, which has a game in hand, but it has overtaken United on goal difference: 54-21 (plus 33) to 49-18 (plus 31).
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had no excuses for his team's loss at Craven Cottage though he defended Wayne Rooney after his star was sent off for throwing the ball in the direction of the referee Phil Dowd.
"The ball was thrown to where the free kick was being taken - did it hit the referee? No," Ferguson told MUTV after his team's first back-to-back defeats in the league for four years. But there's no point talking about the referee -- we didn't play well enough in the first half and that's why we lost. In the first half we never got started."
The game started disastrously when United had Paul Scholes sent off for a handball on the line in the 18th minute and Danny Murphy converted the ensuing penalty kick for Fulham.
Chelsea failed to keep up with Liverpool in the chase for the top spot when it lost to Tottenham, 1-0, on a Luka Modric goal.
"We won't give up on the title," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink told the BBC, "but today was an ideal opportunity to close the gap on Manchester United and we missed it. We cannot afford to drop two or three points in any game if we want to catch United, and today we lost-it's a huge blow."