Fulham raise white flag to rampant Reds
Liverpool 4 Fulham 0
Luis Suarez's irrepressible return from suspension continued apace but, against a Fulham defence that conceded three first-half goals for the second successive week, it said as much about the opposition as it did his goalscoring prowess.
Suarez scored twice, possibly three times depending on an own-goal adjudication, as Brendan Rodgers's team moved into second place with a result that leaves the job security of Martin Jol under a darkening cloud.
Jol, who managed Suarez at Ajax, had waxed lyrical about his former player, only to find that the Uruguayan had a funny way of repaying the compliment.
"Luis took his goals well but him and Daniel Sturridge could have had one or two more," said Rodgers, still refusing to discuss his team's title credentials.
"Our appetite was outstanding, there was a real hunger to get the ball. We had over 30 shots on goal so it was a dominant performance.
"We are taking it game by game. But the evidence we have shown in the seven games we have won, and tag that on to the form since January, shows we are collecting points.
"When I first came here, there was a real vulnerability and nervousness in games like this. Now, the focus and mentality is good and we are becoming relentless in this type of game. That's what Liverpool is about."
The fact that the first two goals emanated from Steven Gerrard set-pieces, appallingly defended, underscored the weaknesses that have left Fulham planted deep in the early-season relegation frame.
The first, after 23 minutes, was a free-kick from the right of the pitch which Suarez converted with a header that took a kindly deflection off the shoulder of defender Fernando Amorebieta and which, initially at least, was credited as an own-goal.
Three minutes later, and in almost identical fashion, Gerrard's right-wing corner found the unmarked Martin Skrtel, who steered a stooping header past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Impressive Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho could count himself unfortunate not to add his name to the scoresheet with a series of fine long-range shots, one of which drew a stunning acrobatic save from Stekelenburg.
But, after 36 minutes, any vague notion of a Fulham recovery was removed when Gerrard's sweeping pass found Jordan Henderson. His threaded pass, in turn, played in Suarez, whose low finish was as technically perfect as it was predictable.
It was becoming – and would continue to be – an unspeakably poor performance from Fulham, whose only shot of the game came after 21 minutes, with the game scoreless, when lone striker Dimitar Berbatov's effort with the outside of his foot offered Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet no concerns as he gathered.
"There is no defence," said Jol of the first-half display. "If you go to Liverpool or Man United, you have to fight not to concede goals and to concede the first two to set-pieces, we made life difficult for ourselves.
"At half-time I just said the same as last week, we like to get results against the Crystal Palaces, the Stokes, the Sunderlands, but against Man United and Liverpool you hope for a result but couldn't get it. It's not the end of the world.
"Before Southampton away, we had three out of four against 'normal' sides and this is what we have to do, try and get the points against those teams.
"Every manager of any team in the bottom six or seven has to keep fighting. At the end of the day I think we will be fine but we have to suffer during these games."
Suarez made it 4-0 after 53 minutes. Again it came courtesy of shoddy defending as Kieran Richardson was dispossessed by Gerrard, who played in Suarez for yet another excellent finish and his eighth league goal in six games.