Premier League: Wigan 0 Liverpool 4
By Football News
Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick to drive Liverpool to a 4-0 victory over Wigan and overtake Robin van Persie in the Golden Boot race.
Inspired by Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, who laid on two assists, the Reds raced into a three-goal lead by half-time after Stewart Downing opened the scoring and the Uruguayan magician struck twice.
And soon after the break, the away supporters were saluting Suarez again when he raced clear of the Wigan defence to complete his treble.
Reading had earlier lost to Everton while Aston Villa face a difficult match against Manchester City on Monday night but Wigan's leaky defence cost them a chance to boost their hopes of top flight survival.
After their 3-0 victory over Reading, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez unsurprisingly chose to name an unchanged team but his counterpart Brendan Rodgers was without Daniel Sturridge.
Suarez, therefore, reprised the centre-forward role and Joe Allen came into midfield to allow Steven Gerrard to push forward into a position between Downing and Coutinho.
Sturridge has added a new dimension to the Reds attack but so might Coutinho, and the young Brazilian quickly eased any fears Rodgers might have had in the absence of his in-form striker.
Emmerson Boyce had provided a cross which Arouna Kone failed to control when totally unmarked in the box in the opening minute but the wing-back did not fare so well in his own half when Coutinho skipped past him on the left.
The 20-year-old took a quick glance across goal and teed up a cross to the back post which Downing nodded past Ali Al-Habsi from close range.
Suarez doubled the visitors' lead after fine work in midfield by Gerrard and Coutinho, with the latter this time producing a through ball that left the Uruguayan with only Al-Habsi to beat as Wigan's defending ceased to exist.
Boyce forced a superb save from Pepe Reina with a volley immediately afterwards but the 33-year-old then needlessly initiated a shoving match with James McArthur after the midfielder's poor back-pass almost set Suarez free.
In rather more unfortunate circumstances, Suarez made it three when his free kick from 25 yards deflected off the head of Maloney to leave Al-Habsi scrambling back across goal in a vain attempt to claw the ball away from the bottom corner.
Franco Di Santo had shown signs of life in attack for Wigan and nearly put a dent in Liverpool's lead with a powerful header from eight yards, but Reina was at the peak of his powers all evening and pushed the ball over the crossbar.
Martinez opted to stick with his 11 starters after half-time but Roger Espinoza and Antolin Alcaraz were promptly introduced after Glen Johnson raced forward to release Suarez, who poked a shot between Al-Habsi's legs.
Wigan mustered very little thereafter, though, and Reina needed only to make two saves from Maloney to preserve a well-earned clean sheet.