A clinical Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick, coupled with goals from Dirk Kuyt and forgotten man Joe Cole, gave Liverpool three points against a pitiable Birmingham side. It was a performance which typifies the impact Kenny Dalglish has made at the club, but also one which will surely help deliver a permanent contract the way of the 60-year-old.
Dalglish continued his emphasis on youth as, following his impressive debut against Arsenal, Jack Robinson replaced the injured Fabio Aurelio at left-back as Rodriguez came in for the injured Andy Carroll. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish made two changes from the defeat at Chelsea, with Martin Jiranek replacing Stuart Parnaby and Lee Bowyer starting ahead of Barry Ferguson.
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The absence of Carroll meant the hosts should adapt their approach as the lack of an aerial threat meant they needed to keep the ball on the floor – which they did with devastating effect. For many sides playing away at grounds such as Anfield means a tight and compact midfield is vital to try and keep the home side at bay for as long as possible. This plan was undone within ten minutes as Ben Foster’s fumble begun his side’s miserable afternoon.
Barring five or so minutes after the Merseysiders took the lead, the Midlands side were chasing shadows as Dalglish’s pass and move philosophy shone through to please a packed Anfield. The first period epitomised the transformation under the Scot, with both atmosphere and performance, quite electric. For Birmingham, as soon as Kuyt and Rodriguez registered their task was re-drafted as a damage limitation exercise.
The Blues’ inability to keep possession played into Liverpool’s hands and it was only a matter of time before the hosts increased their lead. The relentless movement of Kuyt and Luis Suarez unsettled the defensive pairing of Liam Ridgewell and Jiranek, as they were rigorously pulled out of position. Raul Meireles, Lucas, and Jay Spearing were quietly efficient in Liverpool’s midfield, as they grafted their side towards a much deserved victory.
In order to avoid relegation – a task which tops the visitors’ agenda – they must show more spirit and cohesion on the road, performances like this exemplify why they face such a struggle to retain their Premier League status. However, this match was all about Liverpool and the new found swagger they have discovered under the man Reds fans call the greatest player in their history.
McLeish and his side had a torrid afternoon in the north but it was probably a fixture they had not envisaged taking anything from, but to lose by such a score, with such a disconsolate demeanour will worry all associated with the club. This is not to take anything away from the Reds, who fully warrant the superlatives which will be directed their way. They have also continued their run – quite emphatically – of having scored in 16 consecutive Premier League games, as they chase down Tottenham Hotspur for that final European spot.