Vital Report: Fulham 1-3 Liverpool
Vital Liverpool report on a 3-1 Premier League victory against Fulham at Craven Cottage, which included an attacking master-class from Messrs Coutinho and Sturridge.
Liverpool recorded a surprisingly entertaining 3-1 victory against Fulham today at Craven Cottage. The highlight of the match was a brilliant hat-trick from Daniel Sturridge and another good performance from his attacking colleague Philippe Coutinho.
The match would turn out to defy expectations, especially given its relative lack of importance, but, the first half hour did have a distinct end of season flavour, with the tempo from both sides leaving a lot to be desired.
Liverpool were the brighter side, passing the ball around neatly, whilst Fulham were content to surrender possession and sit back. But the Reds created little; the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was on 14 minutes, when a touch of fleet-footed skill from Philippe Coutinho allowed him to shoot powerfully from 20 yards and sting the palms of Mark Schwarzer.
The travelling red army were in fine voice and let off a few smoke bombs for good measure. Whoever is selling smoke bombs in the Merseyside area has clearly enjoyed an upturn in trade of late.
However, the carnival atmosphere in the away end was halted temporarily when on 32 minutes Fulham recorded the opening goal - against the run of play.
Sascha Riether could possibly have been offside when he received the ball on the right wing, but the linesman's flag stayed down, allowing him to aim a cross onto the head of a completely unmarked Dimitar Berbatov, who nodded home easily from eight yards.
Another example of poor defending which has blighted Liverpool's league campaign.
Thankfully though, Liverpool responded almost instantly. After a Fulham attack, Andre Wisdom showed good composure by bringing the ball out of defence and playing a fifty yard pass to Daniel Sturridge. The former Chelsea man - who received abuse throughout the game due to his history with Fulham's West London rivals - let the ball bounce before knocking the ball over Aaron Hughes' head, cutting back outside the veteran Northern Irishman, and firing home right footed.
A superbly taken goal.
Fulham were the more dominant side in the opening stages of the second half and after a decent spell of pressure, the home fans were left furious when Bryan Ruiz's cross struck the hand of Lucas inside the penalty area.
If this was a penalty though, there is no such thing as 'ball to hand' in the modern game because there was very little the Brazilian anchor man could do to avoid the ball making contact.
Perhaps the furore distracted Fulham, because Liverpool rubbed salt in the wounds moments later and took the lead on 62 minutes. Coutinho's shot was deflected straight to Sturridge only eight yards out, who opened his body stylishly and passed the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
Apart from a Berbatov shot and Hughes header, the latter saved brilliantly by Reina, Liverpool were emphatic in their complete dominance of the closing half hour.
Sturridge missed two one-on-one opportunities, substitute Fabio Borini hit the post and the Italian also had a close range effort saved after a beautiful Sturridge flick.
Some of the football was a joy to behold, and it was Coutinho and particularly Sturridge who were the centre of everything. Fittingly, it was a combination between those two which wrapped up the game on 85 minutes.
Coutinho received a bouncing ball just inside Fulham's half, and yet again, his vision and execution in such a position were a sight to behold. The little Brazilian scooped an effortless outside-of-the-right-foot ball over the top of Fulham's defence to put Sturridge through in an inside left position; the finish wasn't simple, but he didn't disappoint, lifting a fine chip over Schwarzer.
A sparkling hat-trick which sent the away end into raptures.
Apart from the first half hour, the atmosphere and intensity from Liverpool's fans and players respectively was somewhat of a surprise. It was pleasing to see such a good attitude from the players (the fans never disappoint) and their second half performance was superb.
The already significant contribution of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in their short Liverpool careers provides the club's fans with real excitement going into next season. Keeping those two fully fit and playing alongside Suarez, Gerrard and perhaps 'a another' is a mouth watering prospect.
The excitement provided by those two contributed to a magnificent performance from Liverpool's fans. Without much to shout about this season, their fanatical support throughout the game is worth a special mention here.
We are coming towards the end of a distinctly average season, but the performance today of the Kop's new attacking darlings will provide genuine consolation when the dust has settled.
Liverpool's Star Player
Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge is comfortably international class and providing he stays fit, Liverpool fans can expect him to be fairly high in the goalscoring charts next season. A fantastic display.
Reina, Wisdom (Enrique 46'), Coates, Carragher, Johnson, Lucas, Henderson, Shelvey (Borini 77'), Downing, Sturridge, Coutinho (Coady 88').
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Click here to read Brendan Rodgers' comments on the match
Click here to see comprehensive match stats from the game
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