Fulham 2 Liverpool 5: Maxi treble fires Reds into fifth
Five-star Liverpool sweep Fulham aside to boost their Europa League qualification hopes
A hat-trick from Maxi RodrÃƒÂguez and goals from Dirk Kuyt and Luis SuÃƒÂ¡rez helped Liverpool brush Fulham aside and boost their hopes of reaching the Europa League.
It was a game for Reds record breakers at Craven Cottage. Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was set to make his 666th appearance for the club, while Pepe Reina, the Reds’ ever-present goalkeeper, made his 150th consecutive start for the club.
However, it will have been the opposition’s formidable home record that played on Kenny Dalglish’s mind before the game – only Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and West Ham United had walked away with all three points from Craven Cottage this term.
After Javier HernÃƒÂ¡ndez’s early effort in Manchester United’s clash with Chelsea the day before, it was Liverpool’s turn to get a goal in the opening moments.
Both Carlos Salcido and Mark Schwarzer failed to clear SuÃƒÂ¡rez’s dangerous low ball into the box, allowing RodrÃƒÂguez to score his fifth goal in three games.
RodrÃƒÂguez then doubled his and Liverpool’s tally just five minutes later when he latched on to a well-placed ball from Glen Johnson after getting the better of the returning Brede Hangeland to calmly place the ball past Schwarzer.
Ten minutes later Liverpool felt they deserved a penalty when Hangeland appeared to have brought down SuÃƒÂ¡rez in the box after a quick breakaway by the Reds.
However, Liverpool’s protests were short-lived as Kuyt picked up the ball on the right and easily beat Schwarzer from an ambitious distance to put the visitors three up.
For the rest of the first half Fulham looked considerably stronger at the back, however SuÃƒÂ¡rez continued to be a menace, breaking down the wing before cutting inside and firing over the bar as he tried to beat Schwarzer from a tight angle.
Fulham’s only real chance of the opening period came from a corner. Danny Murphy lofted a ball into the box which Clint Dempsey nodded towards goal, forcing full-back Johnson to make a last-ditch clearance to preserve the Reds’ three-goal advantage.
Fulham brought on Bobby Zamora for Simon Davies just before the second half, while Liverpool were forced to make a change just three minutes after the restart, with promising youngster Jonjo Shelvey coming on to replace the injured Raul Meireles.
The hosts improved after the break, with substitute Zamora and former Chelsea forward Eidur Gudjohnsen coming close within 10 minutes.
And after 56 minutes the hosts’ pressure paid off as Zamora latched on to Chris Baird’s pass before playing it towards Moussa Dembele, whose well-placed shot got the better of Reina.
With 20 minutes left Gudjohnsen, who had been largely ineffectual, was replaced by Andy Johnson.
Minutes later RodrÃƒÂguez completed his second hat-trick in three games, picking up on his own deflected pass and breaking forward towards the box before firing a shot into the top left corner to restore Liverpool’s three-goal lead.
It was SuÃƒÂ¡rez, who Fulham had struggled to keep under wraps all night, who scored Liverpool’s fifth. The Uruguayan latched onto Shelvey’s long-distance effort from before confidently placing the ball past Schwarzer.
With five minutes left Steve Sidwell fired in magnificent volley from the edge of the box shortly after hat-trick hero RodrÃƒÂguez had been substituted to a standing ovation from the travelling supporters.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said:
“That was a fantastic performance. We started reallty brightly but the football we played, and our movement and work-rate was great.
“Fulham stepped things up in the second half but we stood up to them. We have done fantastically well since January and that is tremendous credit to the players and Steve Clarke, Sammy Lee and the backroom staff.”
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said:
“We’ve been playing well of late, confidence is good and we’ve been looking forward to games. It was just one of those days for us. We played very well, with the start and the early goals.
“When you’re winning everything’s enjoyable. We just want to keep this run going. The fans will be happy, it’s a late night for a lot of us but we’ve got to look forward to keeping it going against Tottenham [at home on Sunday].”