Rodriguez has now scored six goals this season for Liverpool
By Phil Dawkes
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.
Dalglish revels in Liverpool resurgence
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.
McLeish expects Birmingham response
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.
Kuyt credits team-mates for scoring record
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.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish:
"Overall it was a thoroughly deserved three points. Whether five flatters us or not I don't know, but during the game we played some fantastic football.
"There are a few youngsters there who are going to be very happy with themselves tonight. They have shown they can handle the pressure, which is fantastic for them and for the football club.
"The players give me the joy and the satisfaction. I'm celebrating for them as much as I am for myself because I know how hard they work and how much they put in during the week."
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish:
"Yet again, like Chelsea last week, after the first couple of minutes we lose a goal. One of the things we emphasized before the start of the game was to get a good, solid start. But we gifted them the first two goals.
"The manner in which we've concede goals over the last two games is a bit concerning. It is not like us. We're better than that. But I know that this team is very good at bouncing back.
"Expectations were that we would probably get no points this week from two tough fixtures. But we'll soldier on to our next home game, which is huge for both us and [opponents] Wolves."
93:09 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
90:00+2:17 The ball is sent over by Liam Ridgewell, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.
90:00+0:58 The ball is crossed by Jonjo Shelvey, clearance made by Stephen Carr.
90:00+0:34 Short corner worked by Leiva Lucas.
88:05 Joe Cole crosses the ball in from the free kick, Colin Doyle makes a comfortable save.
88:05 Substitution Rodriguez Maxi leaves the field to be replaced by David Ngog.
88:05 Free kick awarded for a foul by Lee Bowyer on Jay Spearing.
87:06 Luis Suarez crosses the ball, save made by Colin Doyle.
85:08 Assist on the goal came from Dirk Kuyt.
85:08 GOAL - Joe Cole:Liverpool 5 - 0 Birmingham Joe Cole grabs a goal from the edge of the penalty area low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham.
84:46 Sebastian Larsson produces a cross, save by Jose Reina.
83:18 Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball in from the free kick, John Flanagan manages to make a clearance.
83:18 Substitution (Liverpool) makes a substitution, with Joe Cole coming on for Raul Meireles.
83:18 Jonjo Shelvey gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Sebastian Larsson.
82:53 Kevin Phillips takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
82:26 Kevin Phillips takes a shot. Comfortable save by Jose Reina.
82:02 Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save by Colin Doyle.
80:31 Dirk Kuyt sends in a cross, Colin Doyle makes a comfortable save.
77:46 Leiva Lucas takes the free kick.
77:46 Substitution Kevin Phillips comes on in place of Craig Gardner.
77:46 Substitution Jonjo Shelvey is brought on as a substitute for Jack Robinson.
77:46 Lee Bowyer concedes a free kick for a foul on Rodriguez Maxi.
77:24 David Bentley takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
75:48 Craig Gardner gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on John Flanagan. Jose Reina takes the indirect free kick.
74:31 A cross is delivered by Sebastian Larsson, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
Correction - 72:53 GOAL - Rodriguez Maxi:Liverpool 4 - 0 Birmingham Rodriguez Maxi finds the back of the net with a goal from deep inside the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool
72:53 The assist for the goal came from Raul Meireles.
72:53 GOAL - Rodriguez Maxi:Liverpool 4 - 0 Birmingham Rodriguez Maxi scores a goal from inside the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 4-0 Birmingham.
72:48 Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Blocked by Colin Doyle.
72:16 Stephen Carr takes a shot.
71:45 Dirk Kuyt produces a cross, Colin Doyle makes a save.
69:34 Close range headed effort by Rodriguez Maxi goes wide of the left-hand upright.
68:30 Foul by Craig Gardner on Dirk Kuyt, free kick awarded. Jamie Carragher restarts play with the free kick.
67:19 The offside flag is raised against Rodriguez Maxi. Colin Doyle takes the free kick.
66:55 Substitution David Bentley comes on in place of Alexander Hleb.
65:43 Assist on the goal came from Luis Suarez.
65:43 GOAL - Rodriguez Maxi:Liverpool 3 - 0 Birmingham Rodriguez Maxi finds the net with a goal from inside the area low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 3-0 Birmingham.
62:52 Corner from the right by-line taken by Sebastian Larsson, Dirk Kuyt makes a clearance.
62:39 Keith Fahey takes a shot. Blocked by Martin Skrtel.
62:03 Centre by Sebastian Larsson, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.
61:12 Free kick awarded for a foul by Martin Skrtel on Roger Johnson. Free kick taken by Colin Doyle.
60:36 Outswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles from the right by-line, clearance by Roger Johnson.
60:27 The ball is swung over by Keith Fahey, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.
53:24 Unfair challenge on Luis Suarez by Sebastian Larsson results in a free kick. Luis Suarez shoots direct from the free kick.
52:40 Liam Ridgewell is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.
51:10 Corner taken by Raul Meireles, clearance by Stephen Carr.
50:31 Unfair challenge on Leiva Lucas by Cameron Jerome results in a free kick. Leiva Lucas takes the indirect free kick.
50:07 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Raul Meireles by Lee Bowyer. John Flanagan takes the indirect free kick.
47:54 Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, save made by Jose Reina.
47:54 Booking Caution for Jack Robinson.
47:43 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Cameron Jerome by Jack Robinson.
45:36 Unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Roger Johnson results in a free kick. Leiva Lucas takes the free kick.
45:10 Sebastian Larsson takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
45:01 The referee starts the second half.
45:00+3:51 The ref blows to end the first period.
45:00+3:17 Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save by Colin Doyle.
Correction - 45:00+2:20 Shot from long range by Keith Fahey misses to the right of the target.
45:00+2:20 Keith Fahey has shot on goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
45:00+0:54 Long range effort from Craig Gardner misses to the left of the target.
44:33 Sebastian Larsson delivers the ball, clearance by John Flanagan.
43:58 Free kick awarded for a foul by Leiva Lucas on Alexander Hleb. Liam Ridgewell takes the indirect free kick.
42:08 Lee Bowyer gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on John Flanagan. The ball is sent over by Raul Meireles, Dirk Kuyt
produces a headed effort from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
41:19 A cross is delivered by Raul Meireles, clearance made by Martin Jiranek.
41:02 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Liam Ridgewell. Free kick taken by Leiva Lucas.
39:21 Substitution Ben Foster goes off and Colin Doyle comes on.
38:39 Jack Robinson has shot on goal from a long way out that goes wide left.
38:23 Leiva Lucas takes a shot. Roger Johnson gets a block in.
38:20 Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Stephen Carr gets a block in.
37:47 Raul Meireles delivers the ball, save by Ben Foster.
37:13 Corner taken right-footed by Raul Meireles from the left by-line, clearance made by Roger Johnson.
35:39 Inswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles from the left by-line, Martin Skrtel concedes a free kick for a foul on Keith Fahey.
Free kick taken by Ben Foster.
33:37 Centre by John Flanagan, clearance by Keith Fahey.
32:59 Raul Meireles sends in a cross, clearance by Stephen Carr.
31:29 Keith Fahey challenges Dirk Kuyt unfairly and gives away a free kick. Leiva Lucas takes the free kick.
31:01 Sebastian Larsson takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
30:10 A cross is delivered by Leiva Lucas.
29:33 The ball is sent over by Rodriguez Maxi, Liam Ridgewell makes a clearance.
22:56 GOAL - Dirk Kuyt:Liverpool 2 - 0 Birmingham Dirk Kuyt grabs a goal from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Liverpool 2-0 Birmingham.
22:50 Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Blocked by Ben Foster.
Correction - 22:43 Luis Suarez takes a shot. Blocked by Ben Foster.
22:43 Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Ben Foster gets a block in.
19:08 The ball is swung over by Lee Bowyer.
18:58 Lee Bowyer delivers the ball, Jamie Carragher manages to make a clearance.
18:10 Corner taken right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, clearance by Leiva Lucas.
17:23 Sebastian Larsson sends in a cross, clearance by Jack Robinson.
15:20 Jay Spearing challenges Alexander Hleb unfairly and gives away a free kick. Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball from the free
kick right-footed from left channel, save by Jose Reina.
14:45 The assistant referee flags for offside against Craig Gardner. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
14:36 A cross is delivered by Sebastian Larsson, John Flanagan manages to make a clearance.
11:04 Unfair challenge on Jamie Carragher by Cameron Jerome results in a free kick. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
9:24 The ball is sent over by Liam Ridgewell, Shot from deep inside the area by Craig Gardner clears the bar.
8:34 Stephen Carr produces a cross, Jack Robinson manages to make a clearance.
6:27 Jay Spearing provided the assist for the goal.
6:27 GOAL - Rodriguez Maxi:Liverpool 1 - 0 Birmingham Rodriguez Maxi grabs a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Birmingham.
6:25 Jay Spearing takes a shot. Save made by Ben Foster.
6:17 The ball is crossed by Luis Suarez, blocked by Roger Johnson.
2:44 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Alexander Hleb by Jay Spearing. Ben Foster takes the indirect free kick.
0:00 The match gets underway.
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