Liverpool move into the top half of the Premier League with an impressive 4-0 victory over a lackluster Fulham side at Anfield.
Coming a week after Liverpool crashed to a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa, the result and the performance will have come as a huge source of comfort to manager Brendan Rodgers. In contrast, Fulham boss Martin Jol will struggle to find any positives to take away from a match in which his side looked off the pace from the opening and gave Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal a most relaxing evening.
The Cottagers can have no complaints about slipping to a fifth defeat in their last seven matches, courtesy of first-half goals from Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard before Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez added to the tally after the break.
Unlike against Villa, on this occasion Liverpool made the most of their early dominance with something to show for it on the score sheet. The opening goal arrived just eight minutes in and from an unlikely source as Gerrard’s corner went all the way through to Skrtel, who took a touch before drilling the ball high past the unmoved Mark Schwarzer.
There was still evidence of the profligacy in front of goal that has plagued Liverpool throughout the season, however. Daniel Agger produced one of the misses off the season as he stretched onto the end of Luis Suarez’s drilled ball across the face of goal but somehow turned the ball over the bar from barely a couple of yards out.
Suarez himself missed a very presentable chance in the second half as he stabbed wide on the volley when unmarked at the back post. But by then Liverpool were in complete control of proceedings.
With Lucas Leiva continuing his comeback and holding the fort at the rear of the midfield, Gerrard was reveling in the license to move forward more and linked up well with those around him.
Glen Johnson was also a positive attacking influence and it was his run that led to the second goal after 36 minutes. The full back cut inside and laid the ball off to Downing, who spotted the run of Gerrard and produced a fine reverse pass that just had the pace to find his captain and allow him to finish low into the far corner of the net.
Having got his first league assist in a Liverpool shirt, Downing capped a rare day to remember since his move from Aston Villa 18 months ago by scoring a first league goal for the club after the break.
Former Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise did plenty to aid the cause of his former club as he backed off Downing and failed to make a meaningful challenge allowing the winger to drill a powerful shot that Schwarzer should probably have repelled at his near post.
Despite Jol bringing on Hugo Rodallega to support Dimitar Berbatov at half time, there was to be no real improvement for the visitors.
At the other end, Schwarzer was kept busy throughout. The Australian prevented the score line from being even more one sided as he blocked a shot from Gerrard and then did enough to prevent Suarez’s bustling run through on goal.
The closing stages were being played out at virtual walking pace before Liverpool’s leading scorer took the opportunity to add to his tally in injury time. Jose Enrique warrants much of the credit for sauntering along the byline as he cut in from the left before laying the ball back for Suarez to produce a simple low finish for his 11th league goal of the season.
Having moved into eighth spot in the Premier League, Liverpool will be once again looking upward in the standings and dreaming of a top four spot.