Daniel Sturridge scored his first professional hat-trick as Liverpool beat Fulham at Craven Cottage.
With top-scorer Luis Suarez suspended Sturridge has stepped up to the plate in the last three games and displayed his clinical nature on the Thames with a devastating treble to clinch victory for the Reds.
Fulham have tailed off in the last month after confirming their Premier League status for next season and snatched the lead after 33 minutes with the first clear-cut chance of the first half. Sascha Riether delivered a dangerous ball into the box that Dimitar Berbatov gratefully nodded past Pepe Reina to register his first goal since the beginning of April.
But it was all downhill for Martin Jol’s side from then on and Liverpool levelled three minutes later when Andre Wisdom picked out Sturridge with a long pass and the former Chelsea man turned sharply away from Aaron Hughes in the penalty area before drilling the ball into the top corner past Mark Schwarzer.
The home side felt they had a strong penalty claim in the second half that was waved away by referee Mark Halsey, despite Bryan Ruiz’s cross hitting Lucas on the arm, and salt was rubbed into their wounds just past the hour mark as Sturridge tucked home his second from close range after Coutinho’s shot was deflected into his path.
It could have been more had Sturridge squared across the box to two unmarked team-mates instead of shooting, while Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey bost squandered chances before Reina was then called into action at the other end to deny Berbatov an equaliser. Fabio Borini then rattled the post shortly before Sturridge completed his hat-trick when he raced onto Coutinho’s pass and lifted the ball over Schwarzer.
Martin Jol post-match…“It should have been a penalty [for the Lucas Leiva handball]. [The game] was frustrating. Normally if we score we win games. We never seem to win games after being down.”
Brendan Rodgers post-match…“Daniel was outstanding. He scored three goals and he could have had maybe six. If he keeps improving, keeps training well, then I think he will have an outstanding couple of years for us.”
Man of the Match…Daniel Sturridge: What a signing Sturridge has turned out to be. Many expected Liverpool to struggle through Luis Suarez’s ban, but the former Chelsea striker has filled the void and then some. Bagged a sublime hat-trick at Craven Cottage to move onto 11 goals in 15 games since his January move.
Flop of the Match…Aaron Hughes: Completely outclassed by Sturridge and just didn’t have the legs to stop him when in full flow. The 33-year-old has been a fantastic servant to Fulham but this was a clear indication that he no longer possesses the physical attributes to compete against the League’s best.