Maxi Rodriguez scored a hat-trick on his return to the Liverpool side, as the Reds cruised to a 5-0 victory over Birmingham at Anfield.
The Argentina international had scored only four goals in his previous 38 games for Liverpool. But, on his first English Premier League start in almost two months, Rodriguez hit three – with Dirk Kuyt and substitute Joe Cole also finding the back of the net.
There were only seven minutes on the clock when Rodriguez repaid Kenny Dalglish’s faith with the opening goal.
Jay Spearing tried his luck from long range and, when City goalkeeper Ben Foster failed to hold the ball, Rodriguez was on hand to force the ball underneath the shot-stopper.
The early goal did nothing to help Birmingham’s confidence against their in-form opponents, and Alex McLeish’s side were offering little up front with Cameron Jerome increasingly isolated in attack.
It got worse for the visitors after 23 minutes when Dirk Kuyt doubled the hosts’ advantage at the third time of asking. First, Luis Suarez got the ball tangled under his feet, then Kuyt’s shot was blocked before the Dutchman finally managed to slide the ball into the bottom corner.
During the build up to Kuyt’s strike, Foster collided with defender Stephen Carr and he had to be replaced by rookie Colin Doyle in the 40th minute, compounding a miserable first half for Birmingham.
There was brief respite for the Blues after the interval with Liverpool lifting their foot off the pedal due to their two-goal advantage. Suarez sent a free-kick well over the bar before the Uruguay international shot tamely at Doyle.
But the onslaught resumed in the 66th minute, with Suarez the architect for Liverpool’s third goal. The striker beat the Birmingham offside trap with a well-timed run before picking out Rodriguez, who volleyed home with aplomb from the back post.
The Argentine completed his hat-trick seven minutes later when he tapped the ball into the net after Doyle failed to hold his initial 25-yard strike.
Cole replaced Raul Meireles after 84 minutes and he iced the cake with Liverpool’s fifth goal within two minutes of coming on. Kuyt led the counter-attack, feeding Cole, who twisted and turned before firing low past Doyle.
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