Daniel Sturridge hat-trick caps off impressive Anfield win.
Daniel Sturridge hit a hat-trick as Liverpool won 3-1 at Fulham on Sunday but he couldn’t prevent the Reds from finishing a second successive campaign below Merseyside rivals Everton.
The blue half of town celebrated David Moyes’s final home game in charge of Everton with a 2-0 win over West Ham that ensured they will end the season in sixth, one place above Liverpool.
In a season that promised much before faltering as so many before them had done, Sturridge’s treble, after Dimitar Berbatov had given Fulham a first-half lead, was indicative of Liverpool’s season.
Sturridge, like his team, has been brilliant on occasions, but there haven’t been enough of those for either player or club this season.
For a time it looked as if this would be another frustrating day at the office for the visitors despite contributing the lion’s share of the pretty passing football on display in the first half hour that was pleasing on the eye but abjectly ineffective.
Berbatov awoke the occasion from the sense of meaningless end-of-season procession in the 33rd minute by heading home a deep cross from the right by Sascha Riether.
Fulham came into the game all but mathematically safe from relegation but even the unlikely prospect that they could still go down — to do so they would have to lose their final game at Swansea by at least 10-0 — failed to fire them into top gear.
Their lead lasted only three minutes before Sturridge provided a champagne moment, taking down a long punt from Andre Wisdom, juggling the ball over Aaron Hughes’s head before turning the defender on the outside and rasping a drive into the roof of the net.
He put the Reds in front just past the hour mark as a shot from Brazilian Phillipe Coutinho deflected kindly into his path, providing the former Manchester City and Chelsea striker with a close-range tap-in.
Fulham raised their game and Pepe Reina made good saves from Berbatov and Hughes but Sturridge sealed their fate five minutes from time after a slide rule pass from Coutinho played him in to chip nonchalantly over Mark Schwarzer.