Liverpool 5 Birmingham 0: Maxi Rodríguez stars in rout

Argentine nets hat-trick as the Reds keep up the pressure on fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur

Barclays Premier League, 23 April 2011, Anfield
team1
Liverpool
Rodríguez (7, 66, 73) Kuyt (23) Cole (86)
5 - 0
team2
Birmingham

After Liverpool’s dramatic draw with Arsenal last week it was suggested that the Anfield outfit were facing something of an injury crisis.

Against Birmingham City on Saturday, however, there was no evidence of any problems caused by the missing stars of the likes of Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll and Glen Johnson.

Maxi Rodríguez, who came in due to Carroll’s knee injury, put in an emphatic performance, scoring his first Liverpool hat-trick before being substituted in the closing stages to a standing ovation.

Dirk Kuyt found himself on the score-sheet for the seventh time in six games with a goal midway through the first half while Joe Cole, who only came on with 10 minutes remaining, capped off an excellent Liverpool performance by scoring the fifth.

But it wasn’t just Liverpool’s attacking prowess that impressed here. At the back, centre halves Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel were solid, while teenage full-backs Jack Robinson and John Flanagan further dazzled after their fantastic displays against Arsenal.

The opener came early in the first half, with Kuyt laying off Jay Spearing, who saw his shot from just outside the box fumbled by Ben Foster, allowing Rodríguez to fire in from close range to give the Reds the lead.

Just over 20 minutes later Liverpool doubled their lead, this time with Kuyt turning well and firing past the keeper after his initial shot was deflected back towards him following some good work from Luis Suárez to create the chance.

Birmingham’s woes were further compounded shortly before the break when Foster was forced off after colliding with team-mate Stephen Carr following Kuyt’s goal, the ex-Manchester United keeper replaced by Colin Doyle.

The visitors started the second half more confidently than they had finished the first, retaining much more possession and putting pressure on the Liverpool back line.

It took Liverpool just over 20 minutes to add a third, when Suárez comfortably beat the offside trap before breaking out wide, looking up, and looping a perfectly-placed ball to the far post where Rodríguez added his second of the game.

Within 10 minutes the Argentine had completed his hat-trick. His first shot was parried away by Doyle towards Meireles, who also couldn’t get it past the stand-in keeper, before it fell once again fell to Rodríguez, whose composed finish put Liverpool four up.

With little over five minutes left Kenny Dalglish brought on Cole for Meireles, who had put in another fine performance in a red shirt.

The former Chelsea man made an instant impact, picking up the ball on the right, finding a yard of space and firing past Doyle to score the fifth.

As the game drew to a close Liverpool supporters began to sing the name of former manager Gerard Houllier, who had been hospitalised with chest pains just as had happened during his time at Anfield.

But the main chants were for the man currently occupying the Liverpool dugout. This resounding display is a prime example of just what Dalglish has done for this Liverpool side – and it is surely only a matter of time before he secures his long-term contract.

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