Liverpool 4 Fulham 0
For those who suggest Steven Gerrard’s talents may be waning, Saturday’s performance against Fulham will have given them plenty of food for thought over the Christmas period and beyond.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers was aghast at any hint of criticism of the England captain and will offer the midfielder the chance to finish off his playing days at Anfield.
Gerrard has 16 months remaining on his deal and there will be another one offered to the player according to Rodgers.
Saturday’s display epitomised everything fans of Liverpool know and love about their talisman.
Gerrard dominated from his holding midfield role alongside Lucas but with the Brazilian able to offer defensive security in midfield, the Englishman was able to dart forward and he did just that to put Liverpool 2-0 ahead following Martin Skrtel’s early opener. The statistics also prove that Gerrard has by no means been off the boil this season, as while he has only mustered three league goals, he still ranks high on the Premier League’s midfielder performance index.
“I find it incredible he can have had any criticism at all — it is absolutely ridiculous,” said Rodgers.
“Yes, he may not been getting the goals he did five or six years ago, but that doesn’t stop him influencing the game. He has been top class, up there with the very best.”
“He is vital to us, and I recognise that. I know he has 16 months left on his contract, but I would want him to go beyond that for this club and this team. There is absolutely no question about that.”
How vital is Gerrard? Well, he has played every minute of every Premier League game so far this campaign.
After the win over Fulham moved Liverpool to eighth and closer to a Champions League place, Rodgers believes his captain’s influence is helping the Northern Irishman get results from his method of football.
“He has been an inspirational captain for us. We are improving, we are growing, and he has influenced that,” added Rodgers.
Gerrard set up the opener as he swung in an eighth-minute corner that Skrtel controlled before volleying home.
Then the midfielder darted through the sleepy Fulham defence to latch on to Stuart Downing’s carefully-threaded through ball.
It was Downing’s first Premier League assist in Liverpool colours and he got his first goal for the Reds in the league after the break when he cut in from the right wing to strike past Mark Schwarzer.
Downing revealed recently Rodgers has told him he could leave the club in January, but after this display if the winger is handed another start on St Stephen’s Day at Stoke and performs well again, both parties may be content with him staying.
“I want to stay. I never wanted to leave but obviously I was out of the team, I was frustrated as a result of that, and in that situation you have to look at something if it crops up,” said Downing.
“The only thing I can do is play well and make him [Rodgers] keep me here. All I am trying to do is make him pick me for the team.”
Luis Suarez capped off a drubbing for Fulham with a stoppage-time goal after his tireless work.
The Cottagers failed to add to their solitary win on the road in the Premier League this season but manager Martin Jol remains upbeat.
“We are close to getting 25 points in the first half of the season. If we do the same in the second half we will be fine. We have to be better than this though,” he claimed.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Reina 6; Johnson 6, Skrtel 7, Agger 5, Enrique 7; Gerrard 9, Lucas 6 (Carragher 83, 6); Downing 8, Shelvey 6 (Allen 74, 6), Suso 5 (Sterling 71, 6); Suarez 7.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Schwarzer 5; Riether 7, Hughes 5, Hangeland 4, Risse 4; Dejagah 6, Karagounis 5, Baird 4, Richardson 5 (Frei 54, 7), Kacaniklic 4 (Rodallega 46, 6); Berbatov 7.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 6.
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