Vital Report: Liverpool 4-0 Fulham
Vital Liverpool report from Anfield on an emphatic performance and 4-0 victory for the Reds against a woeful Fulham side.
And so we start again. Liverpool's league season thus far can be described in one word: stuttering. A convincing win precedes a setback, a good performance generally follows a disappointing result.
After a demoralising 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa last Saturday, Liverpool's inconsistent pattern continued with a superb 4-0 home victory against Fulham.
They set the tone for a thoroughly dominant display straight from kick-off. But, where a goal was lacking after a blistering start against Villa, an early goal settled the Reds this evening.
An eighth minute out-swinging Steven Gerrard corner fell perfectly to Martin Skrtel, who took a nice touch before doing very well to keep down a thunderous right-footed half-volley that smashed into the Anfield Road net.
Always a decent 'first goalscorer' bet, the Slovakian is often an aerial threat from set pieces, but this goal would have made many a striker beam with pride.
Liverpool should have doubled their lead on 25 minutes. Gerrard's attempted volley was blocked, but the ball squirmed through to Luis Suarez, who squared a bouncing ball to Daniel Agger, but he managed to guide the ball over the top after sliding in to meet the cross. A sitter.
But the home side made no such mistake on 36 minutes. Glen Johnson cut the ball inside to a reinvigorated Stewart Downing, he then threaded a fine slide-rule pass into Steven Gerrard, who fired right-footed across Mark Schwarzer and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Liverpool looked like running riot, whilst Fulham gave their small away following an unacceptable amount of effort to shout about.
The Reds' relentless dominance continued into the second half, and they grabbed a third goal that all but secured victory on 51 minutes.
The ball broke to Steven Gerrard, who wasted no time in sweeping a sharp ball to Stewart Downing on the right-hand side, he then glided towards the penalty area before cutting inside former Red John Arne Riise and firing in a left-footed shot just inside Schwarzer's near post.
A well deserved goal for Downing, whose sudden run of form couldn't have arrived at a stranger time - it has came immediately after Downing himself confirmed his manager's willingness to let him go in January.
The former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa winger nearly fired a second on 69 minutes, but his rasping drive just about cleared the left-hand upright.
After a brief spell of Fulham possession, Raheem Sterling replaced Suso (a hit and miss performance from him yet again) and a couple of mazy runs from him had Fulham's defence in disarray once more, the latter run culminating in a strong penalty shout.
Liverpool went on to cruise through the latter stages and a quietly crucial goal came just before the final whistle - topping off a perfect evening's work.
Nothing had worked for Luis Suarez up to this point, who was marshalled brilliantly by Brede Hangeland. After a brief spell of subdued form, the Uruguayan's body language looked worryingly lacklustre today.
He needed a goal to renew his confidence and keep him as a regular feature on the scoresheet, and it finally came on 92 minutes. Jose Enrique received a short corner before playing in Suarez, who swept in a tidy side-footed finish.
It's very important that a talismanic striker keeps scoring goals - Liverpool fans will be delighted therefore that a fine victory was capped off with another Suarez strike and he has now equalled his league goals haul of last season.
Liverpool deserved this bonus after a very convincing performance. Fulham were poor and their attitude will upset the Cottagers' fans, but there's an argument that Liverpool's complete dominance of possession sucked the heart from the London side.
'Death by Football' is a Brendan Rodgers sound-byte and this was arguably an example.
The manager stated midweek that Liverpool lacked something last week that hadn't been absent previously this season - work rate.
A passing style must be underpinned by tireless effort in order to retrieve the ball back and start again, and today that work rate returned.
Fine individual performances were present across the pitch. Johnson and Enrique are growing into one of the finest full-back pairings in the country, and Liverpool's central defenders were faultless.
An on-form Steven Gerrard has always been a massive fillip to any Liverpool side and the captain was majestic tonight. Finally, Luis Suarez's goalscoring continues.
But, notwithstanding tonight's inspiring display, nor the fact that Liverpool now find themselves only five points from third place and in their highest position for a while, there can be no room to get ahead of ourselves.
Many times this season, Liverpool have looked like kicking on before a massive fall back down to earth, and a trip to Stoke City could easily provide another wake up call.
A victory however could really stamp Liverpool's authority in the top half of the table, and that's the least a Koppite should hope for, whatever the circumstances.
Liverpool's Star Player
Stewart Downing. His almost miraculous spell of fine form may just give his manager something to think about in the run up to the January transfer window. It's been suggested that Rodgers is simply putting Downing in the shop window - well his price tag certainly didn't suffer after tonight's performance.
Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Lucas (Carragher 83'), Gerrard, Shelvey (Allen 74'), Suso (Sterling 71'), Suarez, Downing.
Click here to read Brendan Rodgers' comments on the match
Click here to see comprehensive match stats from the game
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