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Robbie Fowler struck his first goal for the club since his January return as Liverpool rediscovered the goalscoring touch to bounce back from their recent disappointments with a welcome 5-1 home win over Fulham on Wednesday night.
Fowler set the Reds on the way with a 16th minute header and in doing so became the first Anfield striker to score in the league this year. Collins John levelled for the visitors but an own goal by Michael Brown redressed the balance before half-time and second half strikes from Fernando Morientes, Peter Crouch and Stephen Warnock sealed the emphatic rout.
Having failed to register a win in their previous two Premiership outings this fixture was being dubbed a 'must-win' for the Reds by those who made their way to Anfield on what was a freezing cold night and, with Manchester United pulling away in second place and the momentum of the club's chasing a coveted top four finish gathering by the week, there could be no denying the importance of the game.
Maximum points were essential, no matter how it was achieved, and against a visiting team that had failed to win away all season Liverpool were hot favourites to avenge their 2-0 loss at Craven Cottage back in November.
Rafael Benitez shuffled his pack once again for the visit of a lowly Fulham side that was last on Merseyside as recently as Saturday, when they crashed to a 3-1 defeat against Everton. With lack of goals from the front men becoming more and more of a concern Fowler and Morientes were recalled in attack, while Harry Kewell, Djimi Traore and Daniel Agger also returned.
Liverpool started strongly and had the ball in the back of the net within the first two minutes only for Luis Garcia's close-range tap-in to be disallowed for offside, while Morientes should have done better with a tame effort that was comfortably saved by ex-Reds reserve Tony Warner following intelligent play by Fowler.
A deserved opening strike was not long in coming though and just after the quarter hour mark Fowler drew level with Kop King Kenny Dalglish in the all-time list of Liverpool's top goalscorers when he headed home from close-range after Luis Garcia had flicked on a Harry Kewell corner.
A mixture of delight and relief greeted the goal and with the bit between their teeth the rampant Reds threated to treble their lead almost immediately. Hamann then let fly with a 25-yard dipper that sailed narrowly wide and Morientes fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.
As the home fans revelled in this one-sided affair John then suddenly silenced the Kop with a well-taken equaliser in the 25th minute, sliding the ball through the legs of Pepe Reina after finding space down the right.
It was a goal that initially took the wind out of Liverpool's sails but parity was soon restored courtesy of Cottagers midfielder Brown who put through his own net from inside the six-yard box after Kewell had centered low from the right.
Apart from a couple of scares either side of the break, when Steed Malbranque fired into the side-netting and Zat Knight headed against an upright, the Reds enjoyed almost total control from this point and Garcia was unlucky not to stretch the lead further shortly after the restart when he curled a delightful left footer against the angle of bar and post.
A third goal seemed inevitable and it duly arrived in the 70th minute. Steven Gerrard's cross was headed towards goal by substitute Djibril Cisse - who had just come on to replace the impressive Fowler - and amid the resultant goalmouth scramble Morientes slammed the ball emphatically into the roof of the net from point-blank range.
As the match entered its final stages Benitez made a further two changes and both paid instant dividends. Peter Crouch replaced Morientes and added a fourth goal with an easy finish from a Gerrard pull-back on 89 minutes and Stephen Warnock, on for Kewell, rounded off a highly satisfactory night when he drilled the ball through a crowded penalty area to score his first Liverpool goal and complete a resounding 5-1 success.

Liverpool: Reina, Traore, Carragher, Agger, Finnan, Kewell, Hamann, Gerrard, Garcia, Fowler, Morientes. Subs - Dudek, Hyypia, Cisse, Crouch, Warnock
Fulham: Warner, Bridge, Knight, Pearce, Rosenior, Pembridge, Malbranque, Brown, Boa Morte, John, Radzinski. Subs - Crossley, Helguson, McBride, Jensen, Christanval
Referee: Alan Wiley
Conditions: Freezing cold
Attendance: 42,293 Man-of-the-Match: Robbie Fowler

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