London: Liverpool ended their 2012 home commitments with a dominant 4-0 victory over Fulham at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
Martin Skrtel handed the hosts the lead with a close-range drive following a corner before Steven Gerrard doubled the advantage, latching onto Stewart Downing`s ball in behind.
The winger then capped arguably his best Premier League performance since moving to the Anfield club by hitting the third after an impressive run from the right before Suarez grabbed the goal his tireless running merited from close range late on.
Brendan Rodgers took the somewhat risky decision to drop both Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling to the bench. That meant a return for the fit-again Jose Enrique, whilst Suso started his first Premier League game since victory over Wigan on November 17.
Fulham, meanwhile, made three changes from their defeat to QPR as Hugo Rodallega, Damien Duff and the suspended Steve Sidwell dropped out for Ashkan Dejagah, Alex Kacaniklic and Giorgos Karagounis respectively.
Liverpool started the game brightly, but, unusually for a game at Anfield, capitalised on that dominance with a goal after just nine minutes. A Gerrard corner was allowed to travel as far as Skrtel, who took a measured touch unbefitting of an aggressive centre-back before smashing home on the volley.
The Reds fully deserved the lead and set about trying to extend their advantage but were largely kept at arm’s length by a Fulham team slowly finding their feet. The away side’s passage back into the game was underlined as Kacaniklic’s shot was kept out following an excellent run and through-ball from Dejagah.
However, the visitors were soon given a huge let off as Daniel Agger showed decidedly less attacking prowess than his centre-half partner in contriving to put Suarez’s ball from the right over the bar from four yards with the goal gaping.
The Reds have generally lived to regret such wastefulness at Anfield in recent history but with 36 minutes on the clock they found themselves two ahead. A wonderful eye-of-the-needle pass from Downing found Gerrard’s excellent run in behind the back four and the captain finished with aplomb into the far corner.
Rodgers’ men took that lead into half-time and came out for the second period with clear intent of increasing it as Suarez missed a golden opportunity at the back post, driving Downing’s deflected shot wide when he should have done better.
The much-maligned winger had clearly gained confidence in notching his first Premier League assist for Liverpool and soon had his first goal in the English top flight since moving to Merseyside. Gerrard showed excellent vision to find Downing`s run on the right and he jinked inside the anonymous John Arne Riise before smashing the ball past Schwarzer.
Liverpool dominated from then on, with the introduction of Kerim Frei failing to spark the visitors whilst Raheem Sterling’s arrival only added impetus to a Reds team full of confidence.
The game was capped by the now customary denial of a penalty for the hosts –when Sterling was up-ended after a slick interchange with Suarez – but the Reds got their fourth when the Uruguayan tapped in from an excellent Enrique run.
First Published: Sunday, December 23, 2012, 08:30