The situation Liverpool find themselves in with just five matches remaining in 2013-14 is exactly the reason why players become professional footballers, a delighted Martin Skrtel has reflected.

A brace of Steven Gerrard penalties guided the Reds to a 2-1 victory over West Ham United on Sunday - their ninth consecutive win in the Barclays Premier League since February 8.

Three more crucial points restored a slender advantage at the summit for Brendan Rodgers' charges, after close rivals Chelsea and Manchester City had picked up positive results earlier in the weekend.

Following the final whistle at Upton Park, Skrtel explained why such a scenario is so exciting for all involved and anticipated an 'amazing' atmosphere when City visit Anfield in six days' time.

"It's exciting," the centre-back told the Liverpool Echo. "This is why you play football - for a season like this. You want to be up there challenging for titles.

"There are still five games to play and we all want to keep going in this way and extend this winning run. We just need to stay focused and keep working.

"Things are going well but there is still a long way to go. We can't look too far ahead. We need to keep going game to game and now our focus is on getting three points against Manchester City.

"We will look forward to that challenge. We know the atmosphere created by our fans will be amazing.

"We played well at the Etihad earlier in the season and were very unlucky not to take something from that game. We are going into it in great form and we will be doing everything we can to keep this winning run going."

Liverpool controlled proceedings for the majority of the 90 minutes in East London yesterday, dictating possession and creating numerous chances, including two denials by the woodwork.

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They entered the half-time break level, however, as Hammers defender Guy Demel forced home a disputed equaliser - with the visitors claiming that Andy Carroll had fouled Simon Mignolet.

"It was a massive test of this team but we came through it," Skrtel commented. "Just before half-time was a tough time to concede a goal.

"It's never easy for your head when something like that happens. I think it was a clear foul on Simon. But once the referee had made his decision there was nothing we could do about it.

"We talked about staying calm and we played really well in the second half. We knew there were still 45 minutes to play and that if we kept playing, chances would come.

"Thankfully, we got a second goal when Stevie stuck away the penalty and we deserved to get the three points.

"We got what we came here for and we're all delighted. We showed a lot of character and you can see there is a great spirit in this team. Everything is working well.

"We knew what to expect from West Ham. It's always difficult to deal with it but we were ready for it before the game and everyone did their jobs well."