Fulham 2 – 5 Liverpool – Reds thrash Cottagers as they continue to improve under Dalglish

With Manchester United on the verge of overtaking them as the most successful club in terms of league titles, Liverpool fired a warning shot across the Old Trafford clubs bows for next season with a comprehensive thrashing of Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Kenny Dalglish seems to have found the recipe for success at Anfield, mixing youthful exuberance with Scouse determination and Dutch grit, adding the mystery ingredient of South American flair which may bring the taste of glory back to Liverpool.

Luis Suarez produced a master class of attacking vivacity, and he has inspired his continental team-mates to produce performances which were never seen under Roy Hodgson or Rafa Benitez. Brazilian Lucas Leiva has turned from the workhorse to become the creative heart of Liverpool’s midfield whilst Argentinean Maxi Rodriguez has developed from anonymous winger to goal scorer supreme, notching his second hat-trick in three games.

Before the game, this looked a difficult challenge for Liverpool, with Fulham unbeaten at Craven Cottage since a Boxing Day defeat to West Ham United. The home side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with former Anfield stalwart Danny Murphy and Steve Sidwell holding the centre of the park with Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey in the wider areas.

Liverpool lined up in a similar 4-4-2 formation, unchanged from their 3-0 win over Newcastle United last time out. Dirk Kuyt continued up front with Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll missing out with an injury.

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Liverpool blew Fulham away inside 16 minutes. Exposing Fulham in the wide defensive areas paid huge dividends, with the first two goals coming from balls played in behind the full backs. Just 32 seconds had elapsed when Liverpool opened the scoring, Lucas sliding a ball behind Chris Baird for Suarez, the Uruguayan taking his time to pick out a pass and the ball eventually falling to Maxi to fire home.

On six minutes, a ball over the top of Carlos Salcido saw Glen Johnson bomb in behind the Mexican, and his lovely dinked cross was volleyed home by Maxi for his and Liverpool’s second.

An already livid Mark Hughes must have been beside himself when Mark Schwarzer allowed Dirk Kuyt’s effort from the edge of the box to slip past him to gift Liverpool a third. As a disciple of Sir Alex Ferguson he must have had first-hand experience of the “hairdryer” and he had half an hour to compose his thoughts before delivering one to his side at the interval.

The introduction of Bobby Zamora at half-time gave Fulham more attacking focus, and for 25 minutes the Cottagers threatened a comeback, earning their reward for a period of sustained pressure with a slick finish by Moussa Dembele.

Liverpool though reasserted their dominance once Rodriguez had restored the three goal lead on 70 minutes, his 25 yard strike bringing him another matchball, following his three goal haul against Birmingham.

Luis Suarez capped his fine individual performance with a sublime finish, rounding Schwarzer to grab Liverpool’s fifth five minutes later. Steve Sidwell’s stunning strike four minutes from time was scant consolation for a well-beaten Fulham side.

Liverpool’s win took them above Tottenham into fifth place, with the two sides meeting on Sunday in a decisive battle for the Europa League spot.

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