Maxi magic destroys Fulham
Argentinian ace claims another hat-trick in Reds romp
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: 09/05/11 10:55pm
Maxi: Hat-trick hero
A Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick set Liverpool on course for a thrilling 5-2 win at Fulham.
The Reds had the chance to climb above Tottenham into fifth place and took full advantage, charging into a 3-0 lead inside 16 minutes.
Maxi gave them a dream start as he swept in the opener after just 32 seconds and the Argentinian midfielder doubled Liverpool's lead just six minutes later.
A Mark Schwarzer error then gifted Dirk Kuyt his fifth goal in five games as the Reds ran riot against a Fulham side which won their last two games 3-0 and had kept six clean sheets in their last seven home games.
Moussa Dembele pulled one back for the hosts in the 57th minute but Maxi restored Liverpool's three-goal cushion in the 70th minute with his seventh goal in three games, which have included two hat-tricks.
Luis Suarez then claimed a richly-deserved goal five minutes later yet Steve Sidwell scored the goal of the night late on, smashing in a 25-yard half-volley to claim a consolation for the Cottagers.
Manchester United are set to surpass Liverpool by securing a record 19th league title but on this showing Liverpool could be serious contenders again next season - and all this without captain Steven Gerrard and record signing Andy Carroll.
Carroll didn't even travel as he suffered a slight injury in training but Jamie Carragher remained in defence to make his 666th appearance for Liverpool - moving him second on the club's all-time list.
Yet it soon became apparent it would not be a bad omen for Liverpool as Aaron Hughes' slip let Suarez in, Carlos Salcido and Schwarzer then made a hash of clearing his low cross and Maxi took the chance to convert from 10 yards.
Chris Baird then played Glen Johnson onside and the full-back crossed for Maxi to turn the ball in from close range at the far post.
Liverpool were rampant, to the glee of a large travelling contingent, and Suarez saw a penalty appeal turned down before a howler from Schwarzer made it 3-0.
There was little power in Kuyt's shot from just inside the penalty area but the goalkeeper allowed the ball to squirm underneath him at the near post.
Maxi turned Suarez's cut-back over as Fulham continued to be run ragged out wide, although just before the break, Fulham's Clint Dempsey saw Johnson clear his half-volley off the line from Simon Davies' corner.
Fulham boss Mark Hughes threw on Bobby Zamora for Davies at the break and the England striker had an immediate impact, leading to Dempsey firing just over from the edge of the box.
Eidur Gudjohnsen also dragged a 20-yard effort wide before Baird fed Zamora, who laid off for Dembele to take a touch before curling home beautifully beyond Jose Reina.
Liverpool remained a threat on the break, though, particularly through the fine movement of the effervescent Suarez.
Yet it was Maxi who killed off any hope of a Fulham fightback, completing his hat-trick with a stunning 20-yard drive into the top corner.
Suarez made it another five-star performance for Kenny Dalglish's men when he raced onto substitute Jonjo Shelvey's through-ball and rounded Schwarzer to prod home his fourth Liverpool goal.
The Uruguay striker beat the offside trap again moments later only to blaze over while Sidwell pounced on a loose clearance and fired into the top corner.Liverpool kept coming forward, though, and Schwarzer denied Shelvey before Jay Spearing and Kuyt both had efforts blocked on the line late on.
|0||1st Half Goals||3|
|4||Shots on Target||9|
|4||Shots off Target||7|
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|12||West Ham United||29||31|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||29||28|