Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners over Fulham at Craven Cottage, thanks to a first Liverpool hat-trick for Daniel Sturridge.
|Sturridge levelled the scores in the first half after Dimitar Berbatov had opened the scoring for the home side. He then went on to put Fulham to the sword with two strikes in the second half.The game started off in fairly quiet fashion, with the Reds seeing more of the ball but creating few opportunities. The best chances fell to Sturridge – who hooked his shot across the front of goal after doing well to create space – and Philippe Coutinho, who saw his shot palmed away by Mark Schwarzer.
Despite Liverpool’s dominance of the opening exchanges, it was Fulham who scored first. Dimitar Berbatov was left unmarked in the box, and met Sascha Riether’s cross with with a header into the corner of Pepe Reina’s goal shortly after the half-hour mark.
The lead lasted all of three minutes though, as Liverpool fought back immediately.
A long ball up the pitch by Andre Wisdom was brought under control well by Sturridge in the Fulham box, who slipped past Aaron Hughes before rifling a powerful shot into the roof of the net that left Schwarzer with no chance of getting to it.
The Reds went in level at the break, but looking the more likely to score. After a fairly quiet start to the second half the game sprung into action on the hour mark.
First Fulham fans were left furious when their side was denied a penalty after claims that Lucas had handled the ball in the box. Replays showed that the ball did hit the Brazilian on the arm, but the ball was fired from close range at pace, so there were reasonable arguments for both sides.
Seconds later and the Reds were in front as they broke quickly from defence to attack. Coutinho’s shot was deflected into the path of Sturridge, leaving the frontman to side-foot home for both his and Liverpool’s second goal of the afternoon.
The goal was followed by a good spell of pressure from the Reds, with Schwarzer saving well twice to deny Sturridge his third. After a while Fulham started to get back into the game though, with Reina forced into action a couple of times – most notably with a fine save from a Hughes header.
Liverpool for their part though were by no means on the back foot. Fabio Borini – on as a substitute – came close twice in quick succession, first firing a shot from the edge of the box before being set through with a delightful flick from Sturridge. Both times though Schwarzer was up to the task of shutting the Italian out.
The result was finally put beyond question with five minutes remaining. As has regularly been the case since the pair signed in January, Sturridge and Coutinho combined to devastating effect – the Brazilian finding his colleague with a perfectly weighted pass, who then calmly lobbed the ball over the onrushing Schwarzer.