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Liverpool scored four second-half goals without reply as Fulham folded at Anfield.

Brian McBride had the best chance of a first period where Chris Coleman’s side more than held their own, but the American striker was denied by a fine save from Pepe Reina. It was a different story after the break as Liverpool burst into life and Fulham collapsed after Ian Pearce gave away a spot-kick. Jan Lastuva saved Steven Gerrard’s penalty but the Liverpool captain fired home the rebound.

Jamie Carragher scored a first league goal since 1999 sliding it at the far post to reach Daniel Agger’s flick before the Danish defender produced a peach of a cross for Luis Garcia to make it three. A torturous 45 minutes for Fulham was rounded off when Mark Gonzalez curled in a free-kick right at the death.

The loss of Papa Bouba Diop to injury definitely harmed Fulham’s hopes of hanging on for a point, but Coleman was critical of his players for caving in so easily afterwards. The visitors had been tigerish in the tackle and diligent defensively making it difficult for Rafa Benitez’s men to play through them. So successful were their efforts that Jan Lastuvka, who made a dreadful error at Blackburn on his Premiership debut, wasn’t called upon until just before the break when the Czech goalkeeper pushed away a Xabi Alonso drive.

Liverpool were largely restricted to long-range efforts with John Arne Riise and Dirk Kuyt blasting wide from distance. Kuyt also badly miskicked when he had been found by Jermain Pennant, but Reina’s save from McBride’s first time drive was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.

Fulham’s resilience crumbled in a testing second half. Lastuvka made a great save from Gerrard’s spot-kick but could do nothing about the rebound as the ball broke kindly for the Liverpool skipper. Carragher’s close-range finish quickly put the contest beyond the Londoners and Lastuvka prevented the hosts from running riot with good saves from Gerrard towards the end, although he could do nothing about Gonzalez’s gorgeous free-kick.

LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise; Pennant, Alonso, Gerrard, Luis Garcia (Fowler 80); Bellamy (Crouch 77), Kuyt (Gonzalez 72). Subs (not used): Dudek, Hyypia.

BOOKED: Pennant.

GOALS: Gerrard (54), Carragher (61), Luis Garcia (66), Gonzalez (90).

FULHAM (4-5-1): Lastuvka, Volz, Rosenior, Knight, Pearce (Helguson 90); Brown, Diop (Christanval 49), C. Jensen, Radzinski, Boa Morte; McBride (John 72). Subs (not used): Batista, Routledge.

BOOKED: Pearce.

REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (South Yorkshire).

ATTENDANCE: 43,189.