Liverpool close in on European football next season after trouncing Birmingham City 5-0 at Anfield. A hat trick from Maxi Rodriguez as well as goals from Joe Cole and Dirk Kuyt saw off a lackluster Birmingham side who never really got a foothold in the game.
Liverpool were without regular first teamers Johnson, Kelly, Agger, Aurelio, Gerrard and Carroll. Jamie Carragher might of made the aforementioned list had he not shaken off a concussion suffered last weekend versus Arsenal. The injuries made way for starts for teenagers Jack Robinson and John Flanagan and oft-benched Maxi Rodriguez.
Liverpool started brightly. Robinson and Suarez in particular made an early mark on the game with good touches.
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to make the most of this early advantage. Spearing let loose a stinging drive from the edge of the box but it was straight at the keeper. Foster spilled the shot back out infront of goal and Rodriguez was there to pounce and tap home Liverpool’s opener in the 7th minute. Not the start Birmingham was hoping for.
Birmingham seemed to be up for the challenge. Almost directly after the restart Carr whipped a dangerous ball in from the right which Jerome missed by inches. Carragher’s challenge would’ve made contact very difficult anyway.
The game continued on with Liverpool enjoying more possession but not doing much with it and Birmingham creating the odd half chance now and again.
Liverpool then created their second goal from nothing. A Reina goal-kick down the middle was nodded on to Suarez. It was a crime for the Paraguyan striker to be in so much space. He attempted to control the ball while under pressure from Birmingham defender Jiranek. Suarez, with the ball tangled under his feet got off a tame shot which was blocked back in front of goal by Foster. Kuyt burst into the box and got a shot off but he was also denied. Somehow, Kuyt still allowed to be the first person to react to the second rebound and he fired a low shot into the goal in the 23rd minute.
To add injury to insult Foster appeared to be injured when he came together with Carr in the build up to the goal. But he decided to play through the discomfort.
Liverpool now appeared to be in the driver’s seat, controlling possession once again. Birmingham nearly conceded in a third in the 39th minute. After a series of shots the ball fell to Rodriguez at the edge of the box. He let of a shot that was blocked by Carr outstretched arm but no penalty was given.
The next stoppage saw the injured Foster come off and be replaced by Colin Doyle.
The second half didn’t prove much better for Birmingham as Jerome appeared stranded up front on his own. At the 66th minute things got even worse. Suarez flies down the right and lofts and perfect ball for Rodriguez at the back post who hits a lovely first time volley for his second of the game and Liverpool’s third.
The slack defending continued for Birmingham City as Maxi Rodriguez was allowed to follow up a rebound from his own shot to complete his hat trick in the 73rd minute.
Liverpool added their fifth in the 86th minute from a Kuyt led counterattack. He laid the ball off to the right for Joe Cole. Liverpool’s forgotten major summer signing appeared to have let the chance go by as he twisted and turned in the box without pulling the trigger or making a pass. He eventually let off a low near-post drive which takes a slight deflection makes it way past the keeper.
It is a little unsure if the Reds’ injury influenced lineup were just that potent or if the Blues were just that bad. One thing is for sure is that Alex McLeish will be glad this game is over.