A Liverpool master-class, capped by Maxi Rodriguez’s second hat-trick in three games, helped Kenny Dalglish’s side to a 5-2 win over Fulham.It took just 26 seconds for Liverpool to open the scoring in the English Premier League encounter at Craven Cottage on Monday.
Aaron Hughes strode confidently out of the Fulham defence only to see his pass intercepted by Dirk Kuyt, who released Luis Suarez down the left flank.
His cross almost resulted in an own goal by Carlos Salcido but Mark Schwarzer came to the rescue, only to see Maxi pounce and fire the ball past the outstretched Australian keeper.
The visitors lead was doubled after just six minutes when England right-back Glen Johnson was allowed to surge down the right, reaching Fulham’s goal line and sending a perfectly-weighted ball to the back post.
Chris Baird lost sight of Maxi and the Argentine angled home with his left foot.
The third Liverpool goal came on 15 minutes and just seconds after Fulham had their first shot of the game, albeit a miscued one.
Kuyt received the ball on the corner of Fulham’s 18-yard box and struck a tame looking drive at Schwarzer’s near post.
The goalkeeper seemed set to comfortably collect the ball but, in a momentary loss of concentration, palmed it into his own net.
Liverpool spent the remainder of the half playing exhibition football.
Assured in defence and inventive in attack, they were showing the sort of form that should guarantee Dalglish the manager’s job on a permanent and long-term deal.
Fulham were playing like their summer holiday started three games too soon.
The home side did look a new team in the second half, however, thanks largely to the introduction of Bobby Zamora from the substitutes bench.
The forward helped them pull a goal back 10 minutes after the interval, holding the ball up well before setting up Moussa Dembele to curl a shot past Pepe Reina.
But Maxi popped up to complete his hat-trick just four minutes after Fulham were given the faintest glimmer of hope, and it was the Argentine’s his most spectacular of the evening.
Brede Hangeland was caught in possession by the attacker, who took one touch with his white boots and rifled the ball beyond Fulham’s stranded keeper from 25 yards.
Suraez must have felt upstaged by his treble-scoring team-mate because, just five minutes after Maxi completed his hat-trick, the Uruguayan popped up with a goal of his own.
Jonjo Shelvey cut an already shredded Fulham defence apart with a single pass to release Suarez, who slotted calmly past Schwarzer.
Steve Sidwell managed to reduce the deficit with five minutes remaining with an expert finish from outside the Liverpool area, but it did little to reduce the feeling of disappointment surrounding the west London side.