Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has praised in-form attacker Maxi Rodriguez after his hat-trick in their 5-2 win over Fulham on Monday.The Argentine has scored seven goals in his last three games, flourishing under Dalglish after showing only glimpses of his best under predecessor Roy Hodgson.
His strikes on Monday at Craven Cottage, along with goals from Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez, saw the Reds move above Tottenham and into fifth spot in the English Premier League.
Maxi sealed his hat-trick with a 25-yard drive into the top corner, and Dalglish said he deserved the praise he was receiving.
“He’s a really intelligent footballer. He knows where to go and when to go,” Dalglish told BBC.
“Everything’s happening for him at the moment. He deserves the accolades.”
“He’s a very clever player. A lot of balls have been falling to him in the box, but you’ve got to be there to put them away and he has been.”
Fulham had won their last four games at Craven Cottage, but could not recover after conceding three goals in the opening 16 minutes against the Reds.
Second-half goals from attacker Moussa Dembele and midfielder Steve Sidwell proved to be nothing more than consolation strikes.
Dalglish’s team is unbeaten in their last five outings and he believes missing out on the Europa League’s fifth spot would not be a blow.
“Nobody would ever have anticipated the run that the boys have been on since January, would they? It’s been unbelievable,” he said.
“Even if we don’t get fifth, they’ve been absolutely fantastic. For us, the position hasn’t been as important as the response of the players.”
Fulham manager Mark Hughes said the game was all over after his side conceded three goals in the opening 15 minutes.
“Consecutive errors led to goals,” Hughes said.
“On too many occasions we were giving away unforced errors and giving the ball away in the wrong part of the pitch.”
“The game was gone in the first 15 minutes. It wasn’t something we’d expected the way we’ve played in recent months.”
Hughes said he was keen to get his players into the dressing rooms to rectify the problems they had in the first half.
“We’re not the type of team to shore up and go for damage limitation,” he said.
“We’ve been fantastic for the majority of the season. We were all taken aback by how the game panned out today (and) we just need to learn from it.”
Hughes said Uruguayan Suarez was afforded too much freedom by his defence and the attacker took advantage, creating chances and getting on the scoresheet.
“He’s a talented player. He’s an exceptional player, always in pockets of space which in fairness we allowed him,” Hughes said.
“If we dictate him then it’s OK, but he dictated us today.”
Fulham sit in 10th following the loss, while Liverpool are still in contention for the Champions League qualifying spot at four points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.