Rodriguez hits 3 as Liverpool routs Birmingham 5-0

Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez grabbed a hat trick as

Liverpool thrashed Birmingham 5-0 on Saturday to stay in the hunt

for a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.

Rodriguez, recalled to the side in place of injured striker Andy

Carroll, opened the scoring in the seventh minute before finding

the net twice in the space of seven second-half minutes to guide

the Reds to a convincing win at Anfield.

”Maxi is a very intelligent footballer. He has not played for a

few weeks and came on and did a fantastic job for us,” Liverpool

manager Kenny Dalglish said.

Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt – with his seventh goal in the

last six league games – and substitute Joe Cole also struck for

in-form Liverpool, which moved three points behind fifth-place

Tottenham. Liverpool has played one more game.

Finishing fifth will guarantee a spot in next season’s Europa

League, and while Spurs are wobbling, having drawn at home in their

last two matches, Liverpool is full of confidence under the

stewardship of Dalglish.

The team has looked a different proposition since the

60-year-old Scot, a club legend from his playing days, returned for

a second spell as manager by replacing Roy Hodgson in January.

Dalglish is still only in temporary charge but is expected to be

given a permanant contract in the summer.

Birmingham, which is just four points above the relegation zone

with four matches left, was looking to become the first team to

beat Liverpool at home since Dalglish’s return but the visitors

fell 2-0 down by the 23rd minute.

Rodriguez fired home from close range after Birmingham

goalkeeper Ben Foster spilled a shot by Jay Spearing, before Kuyt

doubled the lead by scoring at the second attempt after Foster

blocked the Dutchman’s first shot.

Foster went off injured in the 40th but his replacement, Colin

Doyle, had to pick the ball out of the back of the net three times

in a 20-minute span in the final quarter of the game.

The excellent Luis Suarez beat the offside trap and crossed for

Rodriguez to volley in his second in the 66th and the attacking

midfielder completed his hat trick seven minutes later, slotting in

a low finish after his first shot was parried by Doyle.

Cole wrapped up Liverpool’s biggest win of the season by cutting

inside in the 86th and firing a shot into the corner.

”I think we were deserved winners,” Dalglish said. ”We played

some fantastic football and we have had a good day and it was very

enjoyable for us.”