Liverpool.................. 4

Chelsea.................... 2

Patrik Berger's first hat-trick in English football ambushed Chelsea at Anfield once again.

Yet angry Blues manager Ruud Gullit maintained that referee David Elleray had done as much as the Czech to gun his troops down as Chelsea were still left with just one league win at Liverpool since 1936.

Gullit accepted the Harrow schoolmaster had been right to dismiss Bernard Lambourde - Chelsea's third red card of the season - for a

second bookable offence inside 26 minutes.

However, the Dutchman was fuming over the clear penalty the controversy-plagued official failed to give, thus denying his men a second leveller before the break, when Rob Jones went through Gustavo Poyet from behind.

Gullit, whose side had instantly responded to Berger's exquisite opener through a very debatable goal from Gianfranco Zola, declared: ''It was definitely a penalty - and it cost us the game.

''If he had given that penalty, it would have been 2-2 at half-time and a totally different game.

''I'm not saying we wouldn't have lost, but we would have been able to have a different approach.

''You can play against

Liverpool with 10 men when you are level, but you cannot chase the game. He did give us a penalty at the end, but it was too late then.''

That late spot kick was

converted by Poyet, but by then Berger had completed his hat-trick and set up Robbie Fowler's third goal in as many Premiership starts.

While Gullit had no complaints at Lambourde's red card, he suggested that his side were suffering more than most at the hands of officials this term.

''Bernard made two mistakes, and the rules say he must get sent off,'' said Gullit, who was without Frank Leboeuf after his dismissal against Arsenal a fortnight ago and himself came on for Zola to make his first appearance in seven months.

''But there have been games this season where the opposition players who have been booked have committed fouls and the

referees have looked into their eyes and seen they've already had a card.

''Then they have decided not to send the player off. I hope they can do that with us one day.

''Liverpool played well, but against 10 men. Against 11 it was different. We lost against Arsenal because we were down to 10 and now it's happened again.''

Even the experience of Gullit could do nothing to stem the red tide in what was at times a frantic and downright unpleasant encounter.

Liverpool boss Roy Evans

was, of course, in a much happier frame of mind.

He conceded Gullit had a point about the penalty that never was, although he was as upset by the Zola goal that never should have been.

''It looked like a penalty to me and, if it had been given, it would have changed the game,'' admitted Evans.

''But we were upset by the Zola goal. Mark Hughes clearly barged Bjorn Kvarme for him to go through. It was a diabolical non-decision.''

Evans, not surprisingly, was buoyed up by his team's comprehensive win.

''It was what we wanted from such a difficult game,'' he said.

''Chelsea have been one of the top sides in the country home and away, but we coped with them really well and the movement was excellent."

Of Berger, Evans suggested that his promise had finally been delivered.

''Patrik's threatened to do that from the day he came back into the side,'' said the Anfield boss, whose side now trail Chelsea by just one point.

''He's been making good runs, but they just haven't come off. I've always felt that, once he got one, the floodgates could open, because he's a natural scorer with great feet, talent, and an eye for goal.''

Gullit would certainly agree with that. He must be hating the sight of the Czech ace. A year ago, Berger was the two-goal inspiration of the 5-1 defeat that had been the worst result of Gullit's managerial career.

Good news for Glenn Hoddle was that the England players on display came through unscathed from a fractious afternoon.

Paul Ince did his best to scare the England coach, however. ''Steve McManaman's got a groin problem and I'm feeling my tendon,'' said Ince, grim-faced. ''We might be able to train by Friday. But then he switched to a big grin: ''Only joking!''

On a more serious note, Ince said: ''It is a big game. We all know how important it is for us to get a result.

''The main thing is that the players who have been playing during the weekend have all come through without injuries.''

McManaman echoed that and stressed that he, along with the whole of the rest of Hoddle's squad, will be right behind the team effort, whether they are in the starting line-up or not. ''The whole squad of players who took part in the World Cup qualifiers will be totally up for the game,'' he said.

On the developing championship race for Liverpool, Ince insisted that one game at a time will do for the Anfield men.

''We do not think too much about all of that. The main thing for us was to get three points, and we have done that,'' he said.