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Fulham 1-3 Liverpool Prem37 Mirror

last updated Tuesday 14th May 2013, 10:29 AM
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The Mirror

Fulham (1) 1 Liverpool (1) 3

Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho proved Liverpool are not a two-man team as the young guns blew Fulham away.

Captain Steven Gerrard missed his first Premier League game of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, while Luis Suarez is still suspended.

But former Chelsea striker ­Sturridge responded with his first hat-trick in senior football on his return to West London.

And the 23-year-old was ably assisted by a brilliant performance from Philippe Coutinho, 20, playing behind the England forward. The third goal, when Sturridge latched on to the Brazilian's curling pass, was pure class.

Brendan Rodgers' fluent side could have scored more as they ran riot in the second half, but still reached 38 away goals this season - the highest in the Premier League.

"Daniel was outstanding. He scored three goals and he could have had six," said the Ulsterman, who coached Sturridge during their time together at Stamford Bridge.

"That's his 11th goal in 15 games since joining Liverpool. I always felt with him, since he was a youth player, that he needs an opportunity.

"It was difficult at Chelsea, they had Drogba, who was one of the top strikers in Europe.

He needed a run of games, and he's got that with us." Sturridge, a £12million January signing, has scored five in three games since Suarez was banned.

"I didn't bring him to be a sub, I brought him to play because I believe he can get goals," Rogers said.

"What we're seeing without Luis is that there are still goals in the team. Luis is more a floating No.9 while Daniel is up there and wants to go in behind, so it gives me a great combination.

"But wherever they play they are goalscorers and we can have an exciting time next season.

"We need more depth, if we get that we can make a serious ­challenge for the top four."

After a stagnant opening half hour, Fulham took the lead when Dimitar Berbatov headed home Sascha Riether's right-wing cross for his 14th of the season.

But Liverpool were level within three minutes when Sturridge ran onto Andre Wisdom's long ball to skin Aaron Hughes before lashing home.

His celebration in front of the Fulham fans ensured he was booed for the rest of the ­afternoon. "Daniel's a good boy," Rodgers insisted.

Level at the break, the Liverpool boss switched from a three-man defence to a flat back four.

The match turned after 61 minutes when referee Mark Halsey, in his penultimate match before he retires, turned down a Fulham penalty appeal when Bryan Ruiz's cross hit Lucas' hand.

Liverpool broke up the other end and Coutinho's shot was deflected into Sturridge's path for a simple finish.

Pepe Reina made a great save from a Hughes header but at the other end, the Fulham defence went AWOL.

Sub Fabio Borini hit the post within two minutes of coming on, and Stewart Downing also saw his deflected shot hit the ­woodwork.

Sturridge went through twice more on Schwarzer, only to see his shots saved by the Aussie. His sublime 85th-minute finish made amends.

Martin Jol admitted his woeful Fulham team were lucky to be still in the Premier League after their fifth successive defeat.

They reached the 40-point mark with a draw at Villa Park on April 13 and have not picked up a point since. But other results mean it is impossible for Fulham to go down. Jol admitted: "Sometimes you have to count your blessings.

"We were fairly happy to get to 40 points, but we couldn't get the results to get to 46 or 47."

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