Liverpool went top of the Premier League for the first time since 2002 on Saturday afternoon as they thrashed helpless Derby County 6-0 at Anfield with conviction.
Missing captain Steven Gerrard through injury, Sami Hyypia lead Liverpool out with Dirk Kuyt partnering Fernando Torres up front.
It was a performance to be proud of as Rafa Benitez’s men played slick team football, putting together a positive attacking display of flare, skill, passion and hunger for victory.
Xabi Alonso’s curling crossed free kick from 45 yards out missed everyone and bounced in past Stephen Bywater in the Derby goal to get the afternoon off to a flying start after 26 minutes.
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On the stroke of half time Dutch winger Ryan Babel scored his first goal for the club, doubling Liverpool’s lead with an impressive turn, fooling both Andy Griffin and Claude Davies, on the edge of the area before an emphatic finish past the outstretched Bywater.
Just ten minutes into the second half and Liverpool were cruising, Fernando Torres proving why Benitez splashed out Â£21million on him this summer with a fantastic solo run in front of the Kop before a cool finish making it three.
Alonso got his second of the game on 69 minutes with a precise low driver in front of the penalty area before Andriy Voronin reacted quickly to make it five, following a rebound from Kuyt’s stinging shot from an acute angle.
And it was Torres that rounded things off for the Reds 13 minutes from time when he took advantage of Andy Todd’s misjudged clearance of a Voronin throughball, rounding Bywater and scoring his third goal for the club from close range.
A fantastic day at Anfield with every player showing hunger and desire to keep their place in the team. The defence had little to do as Liverpool put on a show of the highest order going forward.
Unsurprisingly Benitez was thoroughly impressed with his players. After the game he said, “It was an almost perfect performance. In the first half we missed lots of chances and it was only after the third goal that the game was over.
“We knew Derby had a good team spirit and we did a professional job. I am very happy to be top but it is just for one day. It is nice to score six but there is a long way to go.”
Liverpool next face Portsmouth away at Fratton Park a week next Saturday lunch-time. But for now it’s pleasant viewing for Reds fans around the world ‘“ we’re top of the league, ahead of Everton and with a game in hand.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Benayoun 61), Mascherano (Sissoko 77), Alonso, Babel (Voronin 73), Torres, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise.
Goals: Alonso 27, Babel 45, Torres 56, Alonso 69, Voronin 76, Torres 78.
Derby: Bywater, Griffin (Moore 80), Malcolm (Teale 59), Davis, Camara (McEveley 63), Todd, Fagan, Oakley, Mears, Pearson, Howard.
Subs Not Used: Price, Earnshaw.
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)