Maxi Rodriguez scored three goals as Liverpool routed Fulham 5-2 to boost its chances of playing in soccer’s Europa League next season.
Rodriguez put Liverpool 2-0 up in the first seven minutes at Craven Cottage in London last night and completed his second hat trick in three Premier League games in the 70th minute. Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez added Liverpool’s other goals, while Moussa Dembele and Steve Sidwell scored for Fulham.
The win lifted Liverpool two points above Tottenham into fifth place, the automatic qualifying spot for Europe’s second-tier club competition. The Reds, who have climbed from 12th to fifth in the standings since Kenny Dalglish took over as manager from Roy Hodgson on Jan. 8, host Tottenham on May 15.
“No one would ever have anticipated the run the boys have been on since January,” Dalglish said in comments on his club’s website. “It’s been unbelievable, and even if we don’t get fifth then we’ve been absolutely fantastic.”
Liverpool is on 58 points, four behind fourth-place Manchester City in the final qualifying spot for Europe’s elite Champions League. City hosts Tottenham tonight and can guarantee a top-four finish with a victory.
Dalglish’s team has scored 17 goals in its past five league games, with Argentine attacking midfielder Rodriguez getting seven of them. He put Liverpool ahead after 32 seconds last night before volleying the second.
Kuyt got his 13th league goal of the season in the 16th minute when Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer allowed the Dutchman’s shot to slip through his hands.
Dembele pulled a goal back for Fulham in the 57th minute before Rodriguez added Liverpool’s fourth with a shot from outside the penalty area.
Suarez took the ball around Schwarzer to make it 5-1 in the 75th minute and Sidwell completed the scoring 10 minutes later.
Last night’s game was Jamie Carragher’s 666th for Liverpool, putting him second on the club’s all-time appearance list behind Ian Callaghan with 857.
“When you win everything is enjoyable, and we’re going in every day now with a smile on our face and looking forward to games,” Carragher, 33, told Liverpool’s website. “Confidence is high and we want to keep this run going.”