Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham City

Liverpool swept aside a poor Birmingham City side to keep their hopes of a Europa League place alive on Saturday afternoon.

A Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick and goals from Dirk Kuyt and Joe Cole saw the Reds emphatically produce an exciting performance, adding notion to the idea that the bad days are over at Anfield.

Liverpool are now just three points off fifth place Tottenham, who have a game in hand, whilst – for the very optimistic – fourth place Manchester City lie just four points ahead, but have two games in hand.

It was a delightful day for Liverpool in the sun, with a vibrant performance as the Reds look to finish the season in style.

BBC Sport Match Report

Maxi Rodriguez scored a hat-trick as Liverpool kept up their pursuit of a Europa League place by hammering Birmingham at Anfield.

The home side took control with two first-half goals, both neat close-range finishes from Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt.

The Argentine winger volleyed in his second goal from a few yards out to kill the game just after the hour.

He then sealed his hat-trick with a low drive and substitute Joe Cole added the flourish with a shot that snuck in.

The result is a testimony to the optimism around Anfield these days, in stark contrast to the on and off-field gloom that characterised the respective reigns of former manager Roy Hodgson and ex-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

There is a vibrancy about Liverpool’s play under Kenny Dalglish – which was evident from the kick-off here through crisp passing and purposeful movement – and real intent in the boardroom, if reports of a £25m kit deal with American sportswear company Warrior prove accurate.

Qualification for the Europa League remains a possibility, with the club now trailing fifth-placed Tottenham by three points, having played a game more.

Dalglish has willingly thrust a number of promising youth-side players into the first team of late.

In the continued absence of talismanic midfielder Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing again started here, while Jack Robinson stepped in for the injured Fabio Aurelio as part of a teenage full-back pairing with John Flanagan.

All three provided performances that belied their relative inexperience, with Spearing in particular an authoritative presence in the middle of the park.

He played a vital role in the first goal, a seventh-minute body blow to Birmingham, who afterwards never looked likely to achieving the win manager Alex McLeish feels they need to secure somewhere their Premier League safety.

Spearing unleashed a venomous shot from 25 yards which goalkeeper Ben Foster allowed to slip from his grasp to the onrushing Rodriguez, who made no mistake with a close-range side-foot finish.

It would have been interesting to see how Liverpool might have responded had the sliding Cameron Jerome converted Stephen Carr’s near-post cross to bring Birmingham level, but the striker failed to connect and the home side doubled their lead not long after.

Kuyt began and finished the move at the third time of asking, firstly flicking on to Suarez and finally slotting home after Foster had saved from Suarez and also the Dutchman’s first effort.

During his valiant attempts to prevent Kuyt’s goal – the Dutchman’s seventh in his last six league matches – the impressive Foster injured himself and after briefly soldiering on had to be replaced with substitute keeper Colin Doyle, making his first league appearance of the season.

The Irishman performed his first task well, saving a Suarez shot low down after the Uruguayan had ignored a well-placed Kuyt to shoot from 15 yards just before half time.

However, he was powerless to do anything about Liverpool’s third which, despite their leisurely approach to the second half, always seemed more likely than a Birmingham goal.

Last defender Carr’s attempts to play Suarez offside from Martin Skrtel’s long ball forward failed and, after advancing down the right, the Uruguayan had time to pick out Maxi at the far post for a straight-forward volleyed finish.

Maxi completed his treble with a low drive that rifled in at Doyle’s near post after his initial shot had been saved and Birmingham had failed to clear.

With five minutes remaining, Cole replaced Raul Meireles and, with his first contribution, cut in from the right and fired a low shot on goal that crept past the flailing Doyle at the near post to add an emphatic slant to Liverpool’s first league win over Birmingham since May 2004.

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