Premier League: Fulham 1 Liverpool 3
Daniel Sturridge's hat-trick helped Liverpool to a convincing 3-1 Premier League win over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
The former Chelsea man was the star of the show with all three goals for his side to once again prove his value, as the Anfield outfit ran out convincing victors.
Dimitar Berbatov had opened the scoring for the hosts 12 minutes before the interval, but they were almost immediately pegged back by Sturridge's powerful shot inside the box. And the 23-year-old subsequently grabbed his second with a cool side-footed finish in the second half before, after missing a host of good chances to secure a third, he finally rounded off the result with a clever lob late on.
Fulham boss Martin Jol made three changes following his side's embarrassing defeat to Reading, with Aaron Hughes, Kieran Richardson and Alexander Kacaniklic replacing John Arne Riise, Philippe Senderos and Urby Emanuelson.
Brendan Rodgers matched his counterpart in terms of changes, as Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard made way for young trio Andre Wisdom, Sebastian Coates and Jonjo Shelvey.
In keeping with the theme of youth, 17-year-old centre-back Lloyd Jones also earned a place on the bench for the visitors.
Fulham came into the game having lost their last four Premier League fixtures and, after Philippe Coutinho tested Mark Schwarzer with a powerful effort, Richardson's withdrawal due to injury a few seconds later seemed to indicate it would not be the hosts' day.
But after half-an-hour in which both sides fall to assert their dominance, Fulham went ahead by finishing the best chance of the opening stages. Sascha Riether looked marginally offside as he found space on the right-hand side but the full-back seemed unconcerned as he curled in a perfect cross for Berbatov to nod in unmarked.
The game had been a largely even encounter until the opening goal, and a minute later Liverpool ensured it would remain that way.
A simple long ball out of the visitors' defence caught Fulham by surprise and allowed Sturridge to jink past Aaron Hughes before smashing the ball into the roof of the net with his right foot.
Berbatov's flicked effort five minutes from half-time, which was well blocked by Wisdom, was the best Fulham could create in response before the break.
Rodgers clearly felt his team's lack of control in the first half was significant enough to warrant a change of approach, as Enrique was introduced in place of Wisdom before the restart. And the Spaniard almost made an immediate impact, only for Sturridge to head his cross from the left over the crossbar.
The former Chelsea forward did better with a chance on the hour mark, however, as he collected Coutinho's deflected shot brilliantly in the box and calmly passed the ball beyond Schwarzer into the far corner of the net.
Sturridge should have grabbed his hat trick on two occasions in the immediate aftermath but he was denied by Schwarzer twice when, particularly with the latter chance, he should perhaps have picked out a team-mate.
But he eventually got his rewards for an excellent all-round performance as he clipped the ball over Schwarzer following a pin-point Coutinho with five minutes left to seal the points.