Fulham and Liverpool got off to a slow start at Craven Cottage, but an offensive outpouring from Daniel Sturridge boosted the Reds to a 3-1 victory, providing a hat trick to notch all three of Liverpool's scoring strikes.
The first 30 minutes held very little to get excited for, with the lone highlights of the early action coming in the form of consistent—albeit unyielding—possessions on the part of Liverpool. The Reds kept the pressure on Fulham in the early going, but failed to capitalize on marginal scoring chances.
As LFC Liverpool FC noted on Twitter, the opening minutes were devoid of much excitement at all:
LFC Liverpool FC @Liverpool_FC_
Quiet game so far, we've had more possession but not done much with it. Best chance has fallen to Sturridge, who snatched at his shot #LFC5/12/2013, 2:30:31 PM
The scoreless deadlock wouldn’t last long, however. In the 31st minute, Fulham opened the scoring after a Liverpool breakdown allowed Dimitar Berbatov an easy header from five yards courtesy of a cross from Sascha Riether.
Daniel Sturridge wouldn’t let the 1-0 lead stand, however, evening the score in the 34th minute with an equalizer off his right foot high into the net. There was little Fulham could have done to defend the striker’s impressive effort.
And of course, Sturridge had a reason to do a little celebrating (via LFC Photo):
LFC Photo @LFCphoto
Celebrating his goal today for Liverpool against Fulham at Craven Cottage...it's... @D_Sturridge. #LFC #FULLIV http://t.co/pK0zbdN4pL5/12/2013, 2:59:12 PM
The squads would leave the pitch after the 45th minute in a 1-1 deadlock. Despite a slow 30 minutes to start the contest, the final portion of the opening half held enough excitement to suggest the final 45 minutes would be well worth watching. Both clubs would have to tighten up in the middle-third of the field, however, as sloppy midfield play resulted in a lot of slowed momentum in the first half.
Liverpool retained control of the momentum in the opening minutes of the second half, but it yielded little results, despite a halftime sub and a switch to a four-man back (via Fulham Football Club’s Twitter account):
Fulham Football Club @FulhamFC
46' We've kicked off in the second half and Liverpool have made a change, Wisdom off, Jose Enrique on. #FFC attacking the Hammy End. #COYW5/12/2013, 3:04:25 PM
Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson each saw scoring opportunities in the 56th minute, and while neither chance resulted in a scoring strike, Liverpool put enough pressure on their counterparts to keep Fulham from getting much going at the opposite third.
The tension would break in the 62nd minute, though (via the Premier League Twitter account):
Premier League @premierleague
GOAL Fulham 1-2 Liverpool (62 mins) Daniel Sturridge gets his and Liverpool's 2nd, latching onto Coutinho's deflected shot and slotting in5/12/2013, 3:22:19 PM
Sturridge’s second goal of the day was courtesy of a Coutinho attempt, and the striker made the most of the opportunity. With that goal, Liverpool seemed to take a commanding lead of the match, even at 2-1.
Fulham would get few good looks in the ensuing minutes. The Sturridge goal turned the screws on the Cottagers and allowed Liverpool to hold pressure in the final third with a couple more quality chances.
With a 2-1 lead in hand, Liverpool could have easily chosen to play cautiously in defense of the advantage, but the Reds didn’t have a lot to worry about in the final 15 minutes. With a bevy of scoring chances (including a shot off the post in the 78th minute), the Reds looked in total control and could have easily tacked on a couple more goals in the final minutes of play.
And another goal they would tack on, again from the foot of their brilliant 23-year-old striker (via BBC Sport):
BBC Sport @BBCSport
GOAL! Fulham 1-3 Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge completes his hat-trick to put #lfc firmly on course for win: http://t.co/w6LrchnGDL #ffc5/12/2013, 3:44:55 PM
As Opta Sports pointed out on Twitter, Sturridge’s hat trick gave him more goals than any Liverpool player in his first 13 Premier League games:
10 - Daniel Sturridge has now scored more goals in his first 13 Premier League apps for the club than any other Liverpool player. Update.5/12/2013, 3:44:44 PM
The final few minutes were a formality as Liverpool was in no danger of letting the two-goal lead spill away. Sturridge was the heart of the Reds' attack in the contest, and much of the credit falls on his shoulders.
|Andre Wisdom (half)||B|
|Jonjo Shelvey (77')||C+|
|Philippe Coutinho (89')||B+|
|Kieran Richardson (15')||C|
|Giorgos Karagounis (83')||B|
|Alexander Kacaniklic (71')||C-|
Daniel Sturridge (A+)
It was no surprise to see Sturridge at the lead of Liverpool's attack on Sunday. His 34th-minute goal was almost expected against a sloppy Fulham defense that struggled to contain the striker throughout the contest.
Sturridge missed on a couple opportunities to break things open, but he did his part in getting the Reds back in the match and swaying the momentum in Liverpool's favor with his 62nd-minute score on the Coutinho assist.
Sturridge's final goal capped off another tremendous performance for the striker in a contest that would have looked much different without his incredible showing.
Dimitar Berbatov (A)
Berbatov didn't have to do anything spectacular to score his 31st-minute header, but sometimes being in the right place at the right time is enough to change the look of a match. With the opening goal, Fulham was afforded a small cushion to stave off an early Liverpool attack that would remain in control for much of the match.
Pepe Reina (B+)
Apart from Berbatov's early goal, Reina was superb in net for the Reds. He didn't have to overexert himself, but Reina did what was asked of him in keeping Fulham scoring to the bare minimum.
Liverpool's entire defense benefited from an attack that kept the pressure off its back. With most of the action in the final third, the Reds didn't need all that much from Reina, though the somewhat inconsistent keeper did nothing to make Liverpool fans unhappy with him on Sunday.
With the loss, Fulham moves even closer to being relegated this season. The Cottagers needed to pick up points against Liverpool, but their performance came up well short of what was needed.
Liverpool secured its seventh away win this season with the 3-1 victory. The Reds displayed the youthful talent many expect to be the future of the club moving forward, highlighted by Sturridge and his hat trick.