Amorebieta OG 23'
Suarez 36' 54'
Liverpool are really good at really beating really bad teams. But that's not been a problem for nearly a year now.
Rodgers retained the formation that finished the match at Arsenal while restoring Daniel Agger to the side. And Liverpool dominated from the opening whistle; Johnson, fit again after missing last week's match, was especially dominant down the right flank. But despite comprehensive Liverpool possession, Fulham did well to limit Liverpool's chances from open play, parked deep and determined in its defensive third. Too bad that resilience didn't extend to set plays.
Liverpool nearly scored with its first corner, with Agger volleying over from six yards within a minute. Then, Liverpool opened the scoring with its first free kick in the attacking third, as Amorebieta redirected Suarez's header from Gerrard's delivery. Three minutes after that, Liverpool scored with its second corner, as Skrtel easily avoided Amorebieta's "defending" for a bullet free header. Set plays are important. Being good at set plays is really important, and for all the complaints we've had about Gerrard when Liverpool has disappointed this season, his deliveries from set plays are as good as ever, if not the best they've ever been.
And that's all folks. Liverpool weren't throwing away an early two-goal lead, not against this opposition. Cue fat lady, drop curtain, pick your scoreline. Suarez added a third in the 36th, finishing Henderson's wonderful throughball with aplomb, then the fourth after pressing in Fulham's half led to a turnover and Gerrard's throughball in the 54th, his seventh and eighth goals this season. I shouldn't be amazed by Luis Suarez anymore, but I'm amazed that he's joint-top scorer despite missing the first five league matches. If there's any justice in the world, the dubious goals panel will give him consecutive hat-tricks at Anfield whenever they next meet.
From there, Liverpool simply smothered the match into oblivion, retaining possession until an opportunity presented itself, but annoyingly spurning those opportunities for a fifth, sixth, or seventh. Liverpool's comfort allowed Rodgers to make encouraging substitutions, finding 30 minutes for the much-missed Enrique, bringing on Allen for Gerrard with more than 10 minutes to play, and resting Sturridge for Moses with the striker likely to start both of England friendlies over the next two weeks.
There really is no exaggerating how bad Fulham were.
32 shots is Liverpool's second-highest total under Rodgers, behind the 35 taken in the 5-0 against Swansea last season, and the most taken in a Premier League match this season. Only Liverpool's errant shooting (as well as Mike Jones ignoring three potential penalties) prevented a larger scoreline, putting just 31% of its shots on target after averaging 40% through its first 10 matches. Coutinho was especially profligate, taking nine shots – another high for the season – but only putting four efforts on target, three of which were easy saves. Which is marginally understandable for a player making his first start in nearly two months. Like against Arsenal, he's clearly a bit off match sharpness, but still able to demonstrate the threat in those boots.
Today also saw the most passes Liverpool have attempted or completed under Rodgers, both in total and in the attacking third. Only both matches against Norwich last season came close, the only two matches where Liverpool have had a higher pass accuracy. 68.5% possession is the second-highest under Rodgers, behind 72.1% against Aston Villa last season – a match, I hesitate to remind, that Liverpool lost 1-3.
Liverpool looked impressive reverting to four at the back. The midfield was untroubled, while Johnson's return made a massive difference to Liverpool's effectiveness out wide, combining excellently with Henderson. Agger's ability on the ball improved Liverpool's ability to play out from the back, although Fulham barely bothered to stop Liverpool from building attacks in its own half. Conversely, Liverpool's pressing, especially from Henderson and Coutinho but often joined by Lucas and Gerrard, disjointed Fulham both in the first half and when Liverpool were supremely comfortable after scoring the fourth, most notably on Liverpool's fourth goal. But Liverpool's midfield was never remotely threatened by the Sidwell/Parker duo, exacerbated by playing Kacaniklic – usually a winger – in the hole behind Berbatov, then bringing on the wholly invisible Bryan Ruiz for him at halftime.
Yeah, Fulham were indescribably ineffective, indescribably awful. This was the sort of match that gets a manager fired.
So it's hard to gauge just how good this XI or this formation will look against even marginally competent opposition, let alone Liverpool's competition for Champions League places. But that's a worry for the future. You can only beat what's in front of you, and Liverpool certainly did that today, ensuring they'll go into yet another international break in second place.