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PREMIER LEAGUE: Maxi hat-trick sees Liverpool stroll at Fulham

Liverpool may be about to lose their record of number of league titles won to Manchester United but their revival under Kenny Dalglish continued with a 5-2 defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage. Fulham have had a formidable home record since the turn of the year with six wins and a draw in seven outings and only Blackburn during this run have managed to breach the Cottagers defence.

But Liverpool scored three times in the opening 16 minutes effectively securing the three points by half-time thanks to some woeful keeping from Fulham stopper Mark Schwarzer.

The Reds themselves have had a resurgence of form under Dalglish and they took the lead after just 31 seconds. Schwarzer's poor clearance went straight to Maxi Rodriguez who swept home the opening goal.

On six minutes the Argentinean then doubled the visitor's advantage. Glen Johnson sends a cross to the far post and Maxi squeezes the ball past the Australian keeper who really should have done better.

By the 16th minute it is game over as Dirk Kuyt scores his ninth goal in the last eight games. The Dutchman tries his luck from out wide and the embarrassed Cottagers keeper allows the ball to squirm through his grasp and over the line.

Mark Hughes clearly had strong words at the interval with his player's and they pulled a goal back almost immediately.

Liverpool's defence gave time and space for Moussa Dembele to reduce the deficit. But any hopes of a dramatic comeback were quickly dashed as the visitor's scored twice in quick succession.

Maxi duly earned himself his second hat-trick in three games when he collected a loose ball, strode forward and hammered a 25 yard screamer past Schwarzer.

Five minutes later Jonjo Shelvey plays the perfect pass through a shell shocked Cottagers rearguard and the impressive Luis Suarez calmly rounds the keeper for number five.

Credit Fulham for pushing forward and they were rewarded with four minutes left when Steve Sidwell picked up a Reds clearance to fire home from distance.

From the Cottagers point of view though it was too little, too late as the subdued reaction to the goal testified.

Liverpool now move above Tottenham into fifth position and boost their Europa League qualification hopes.

Referee: Lee Mason

Venue: Craven Cottage Attendance: 25,693

Fulham scorers: Dembele 57, Sidwell 86 Liverpool scorers: Maxi 1, 7, 70, Kuyt 16, Suarez, 75

FULHAM 01 Schwarzer 03 Salcido (yellow card) 05 Hangeland 06 Baird (yellow card) 18 Hughes 07 Sidwell (yellow card) 13 Murphy (yellow card) 23 Dempsey (yellow card) 29 Davies (Zamora 46) 22 Gudjohnsen (Johnson 67) 30 Dembele (Kakuta 76)

Substitutes 12 Stockdale, 14 Senderos, 20 Etuhu, 27 Greening, 08 Johnson, 24 Kakuta, 25 Zamora

LIVERPOOL 25 Reina (yellow card) 02 G Johnson 23 Carragher 37 Skrtel (yellow card) 38 Flanagan 04 Meireles (Shelvey 48) 17 Maxi (Cole 82) 21 Lucas 26 Spearing 07 Suarez 18 Kuyt

Substitutes 42 Gulacsi, 16 Kyrgiakos, 22 Wilson, 49 Robinson, 10 Cole, 28 Poulsen, 33 Shelvey

 It's kicking off again! Click here for your No1 source for Liverpool transfer market news and gossip.

 It's kicking off again! Click here for your No1 source for Fulham transfer market news and gossip.

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Dave Williams

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