Maxi magic as Reds hit five

The little Argentinian was not necessarily brilliant but just put

himself in the right places to capitalise on some impressive team

play by a side brimming with the confidence instilled by Reds boss

Kenny Dalglish. There were positives all over the field with Dirk

Kuyt scoring his seventh goal in six league matches while even

substitute Joe Cole, who has endured a disappointing maiden season,

got among the goals with a late deflected effort. Five goals and

all this achieved without £35million record signing Andy

Carroll, who was unavailable due to an injury sustained in last

Sunday’s draw at Arsenal which allowed Kuyt to move back up front.

Adaptability was the name of the game as the Reds adopted a

midfield diamond formation to get the best out of Raul Meireles’

attacking intent. Crucial to making it work, however, were the

superb Lucas Leiva at its base and Rodriguez and Jay Spearing.

Rodriguez is becoming something of a lucky charm for the side he

joined in January 2010 as although his goals are few and far

between – just seven in 49 matches – they have all coincided with

victories. He is more suited to the midfield set-up which Kenny

Dalglish went with at the start but it also brought the best out of

Spearing, who had a hand in the opening goal – although not as much

as Foster in the seventh minute. Kuyt’s lay-off saw the 22-year-old

midfielder fire in a swerving shot which the Birmingham goalkeeper

spilled into the path of Rodriguez who made no mistake from close

range for his first goal since December 3. Birmingham briefly

responded, without really threatening, before they were caught by a

classic Liverpool counter-attack in the 23rd minute. Jose Reina

intentionally picked out Meireles just over the halfway line and he

flicked on into the path of Luis Suarez who did well to hold off

the challenge of Martin Jiranek. Foster may have been at fault for

the first but he saved well from the Uruguay international and

again from Kuyt’s follow-up but he could do nothing to prevent the

Holland international getting up to slot home the rebound. The

England goalkeeper injured himself in the process and was replaced

10 minutes later by Colin Doyle, who watched one Kuyt header sail

across goal and wide of the far post before gratefully clasping

Suarez’s shot to his chest just before the end of the half. Almost

unnoticed in all the pass-and-move mayhem Liverpool were creating

was the performance of the Reds’ teenage full-backs, 18-year-old

John Flanagan on the right and Jack Robinson, a year younger. The

latter certainly did not look like a youngster making his first

start after two substitute appearances 11 months apart when, in the

opening minutes, he coolly dispossessed the far more experienced

Alexander Hleb as Birmingham threatened an early attack having

swept through the inside-left channel. Having moved into a

comfortable 2-0 lead Dalglish almost immediately reverted to more

orthodox 4-4-2 formation to ensure Blues were afforded no way back.

Alex McLeish’s side provided more of a challenge in the second half

but were always chasing the game and their cause became a lost one

in the 66th minute when Rodriguez scored his second. Suarez was

played onside by Carr, trailing slightly behind his defensive

colleagues, and the forward raced onto Martin Skrtel’s pass and

crossed to the far post where Rodriguez side-footed home. Rodriguez

saved his best goal for last, collecting Suarez’s 73rd-minute pass

and shooting low at Doyle who half-saved his effort only for

Meireles to force the ball back into the danger area for Rodriguez

to convert. There have not been many instances since his arrival

when Suarez has been outshone and as if to remind people of his

talents the Uruguay international produced an audacious

behind-the-leg shot which would have really rubbed salt in

Birmingham’s wounds. That honour was left to Cole who, within

seconds of replacing Meireles, cut in from the right to hit a

deflected shot past Doyle for the fifth. While this result was a

barometer of the confidence at Anfield it will have done little for

spirits within the Birmingham camp, with the club still looking

over their shoulders five points above the relegation zone.