A blistering opening stanza from Liverpool which produced three goals in 16 minutes, gave Kenny Dalglish’s side all three points and kept its Europa League hopes alive as Fulham’s shell shocked defense failed to cope with the early onslaught which set the tone of the match.
A Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick and more from Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez earned the victory for the Reds and left Fulham with a sense of disbelief as Liverpool moved two points ahead of Tottenham in the Premier League table.
The game marked the 666th appearance of Jamie Carragher with 'Pool which moved him into second in the all-time list for Liverpool but will be remembered for the glut of goals it produced.
The game started as it meant to carry on, in extraordinary circumstances. With Liverpool’s very first attack a long lofted pass from Lucas found Luis Suarez marauding down the left and the Uruguayan’s cross was almost put into his own net by Carlos Salcido. As the ball rebounded off the post Fulham ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer desperately flicked the ball away only for it to be smashed back in by Maxi Rodriguez to give the Reds a lead within 60 seconds.
Matters just got worse Fulham. An overlapping run from Glen Johnson exposed the gaping back door of the Fulham defense and the England man’s cross to the far post was just where Maxi would have wanted it as his side foot shot slipped by Schwarzer to give the visitor’s an exceedingly quick two goal lead.
The craziness continued as Liverpool could have had a penalty after 15 minutes when Brede Hangeland clumsily brought down Suarez forcing ref Lee Mason to seek counsel from his assistant but as Mason was a significant distance away he didn’t see enough evidence to give the spot kick and play continued.
Liverpool needn’t have worried as a third goal was rapidly on it’s way. A routine, if speculative shot from the edge of the box from the foot of Dirk Kuyt was horribly missed low down by Schwarzer and it was 3-0. The Australian’s embarrassment was clear and that moment crystallized affairs to that point. Craven Cottage couldn’t believe it’s collective eyes and the question as to which set of fans was more surprised is debatable. Television pictures showed the exasperation on the face of Mark Hughes and few would have not sympathized with the Welshman.
The Fulham fans had very little to cheer throughout much of the first half. When matters go so horribly wrong the key is to stop the bleeding and build from there. The Cottagers applied the tourniquet and as a result, the best chance of the half came from a Simon Davies corner which Clint Dempsey volleyed low only to see Glen Johnson flick away from the goal line. So few goal scoring chances were indicative of the depth of the hole in which Fulham found itself.
As halftime talks go this would be a testing one for Hughes, with his side allowing Liverpool to build such a lead he needed to inspire and motivate his troops to start the second period with urgency which was missing from the first half. Dempsey embodied this and his rasping drive early on narrowly flew over the Liverpool bar and gave the Fulham faithful hope.
The energy shown by Fulham was encouraging and the revival was truly underway when substitute Bobby Zamora’s strength allowed him space to deliver a neat pass for Moussa Dembele to tuck home a low drive to bring Craven Cottage to it’s feet. Fulham was playing like a different side after the break and whatever Hughes said in the dressing room was having the desired effect.
Liverpool was crying out for another goal to kill the Fulham momentum and the man of the hour, Maxi was there again as his unmarked run was not dealt with by the Fulham defense which allowed him time and space to slam home a long range effort which left Schwarzer with little hope of saving it.
The goals just kept coming for the Reds and when Luis Suarez rounded Schwarzer to tickle the ball in it was all but curtains for Fulham. Suarez had worked hard all night and his goal was just reward for the effort.
Steve Sidwell was clearly not content to watch the game drift away, his terrific effort after 86 minutes gave the Fulham fans another goal to cheer, but in reality it had little bearing on the result and Sidwell's nonchalant reaction summed this up.
The rout was complete and Liverpool’s following was left to sing the night away as King Kenny’s revival of the famous club from Merseyside continues. Questions will now be raised about the future of Dalglish and if his return to Anfield will be a more permanent one.
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