By jpa90, 22-12-2012, 20:42:28
Stewart Downing scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool as they cruised to a 4-0 win against Fulham at Anfield. An unorganised Fulham couldn’t stop Martin Skrtel firing home from close-range early on and failed to pick up Steven Gerrard for the second. Downing was lively throughout the game and fully deserved to score when he travelled into the box and released a deadly left-footed strike. Luis Suarez added a fourth in injury time to top off an impressive game for Liverpool.
|Fulham, with a packed out midfield, started out keeping a tight watch on movement down the wings from Jose Enrique and Downing. Jose Enrique worked an early corner which when floated in by Downing, found Daniel Agger completely unmarked on the penalty spot. Agger got too much under the ball and his effort flew over, but a complete lack of marking highlighted big gaps in Fulham’s defence.
A deft flick from Jonjo Shelvey was blocked for another corner which Gerrard swung in. Again, the Fulham defence was left standing when the ball dropped to Skrtel, who controlled the ball perfectly. Avoiding an extremely overdue challenge Ashkan Dejagah, Skrtel’s half-volley rocketed past Mark Schwarzer and into the net, giving the Reds an early 1-0 lead.
With hardly any pressure in midfield, Liverpool were keen to take advantage of a slow-moving Fulham. Downing picked up the ball 25 yards out and smashed an effort towards the top-right corner. Despite the referee giving a goal-kick, Schwarzer made a good effort to turn Downing’s strike around the post.
The home side were using the rain to their advantage as Gerrard and Lucas were able to skim the ball across the slippery surface, providing excellent distribution to the wings. Fulham were yet to find their rhythm in the game, evident when Kieran Richardson knocked Downing to the ground after miss-controlling the ball.
After the Reds took a short free-kick, the ball was teed up for Gerrard on the edge of the box. His shot was deflected and ran to Suarez on the right side of the box, unmarked. Suarez released a low cross into the middle to find Agger two-yards out, only to miss the open goal completely with a touch that flew high into the upper tier of Anfield Road.
Richardson was the first to trouble the Liverpool goal with a fierce shot that Reina had to save with his feet. Fulham’s tempo remained slow and this did very little for their momentum.
Collecting the ball deep in Fulham’s half, Downing demonstrated fantastic awareness when he placed a pass into the path of Gerrard who had charged into the 18-yard box from midfield. Nobody had picked up the captain and he calmly struck a low shot across the keeper and into the bottom left corner, doubling Liverpool’s lead.
Liverpool, with a flavour for goal, did not hesitate to pressure Fulham for another goal before half time. Suarez located Suso in the box far too easily but the Spaniard hooked his shot wide from a tight angle. Glen Johnson then played in Suarez behind the defence and the striker’s short-range effort was pounced on by Schwarzer.
A two-goal advantage at half time was kind on Fulham as the visitors had let Liverpool control the game. The Reds were having an easy time of locating their front men behind Fulham’s defence and could have easily scored three or four in the first half.
Composure was important for the Reds if they were to hold onto their lead and Suarez missed a golden opportunity to extend his team’s lead when he missed a gaping goal when Downing’s deflected shot found him unmarked.
Liverpool were determined to add another however and when Downing received the ball on the right wing, he moved into the box unchallenged by ex-Red John Arne Riise. He hammered a shot towards goal and despite getting a hand to it, Schwarzer could not deny Downing his first Premier League goal for Liverpool.
Despite being 3-0 down, Fulham managed to force their way into Liverpool’s half. Reina was on hand to palm away a dangerous driven cross and the Liverpool defence were working hard at closing down.
The introduction of Raheem Sterling added to Fulham’s woes as the teenager ran hard at the visitor’s defenders. Gerrard nearly claimed his second after the ball fell to him six yards out from a set piece, but Schwarzer stayed on his feet and denied Liverpool a fourth goal.
Dimitar Berbatov’s attempts to get his side back into the game were in vein as the striker was denied by Reina on several occasions. The Reds were quick pushing out after winning the ball back and Sterling won a free-kick on the edge of the area during a counter attack. Schwarzer stretched to make a good save from Suarez’s effort, keen to prevent any further embarrassment.
Fulham came so close when substitute Hugo Rodallega hit the post from a nicely-struck free-kick. This didn’t faze the Reds as they raced up the field, with Jose Enrique darting into the box from the left side. The Spaniard put in a low cross for Suarez, whose first-time effort rolled into the bottom-right corner, making it 4-0.
With an all-round convincing performance, Liverpool move up to eighth in the Premier League at the expense of a sluggish Fulham. Both teams are back in action on Boxing Day when Fulham host Southampton and Liverpool travel to Stoke.
Kopworld man of the match: Stewart Downing