Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 3/2/13
Luis Suarez fired a hat-trick to become the Barclays Premier League’s top goalscorer as Liverpool beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 at the DW Stadium on Saturday evening. The Reds took the lead inside two minutes when brilliant work from Philippe Coutinho allowed him to cross for Stewart Downing to head home from close range. The No.10 was the architect of Liverpool’s second shortly after when he sliced open the Wigan defense and allowed Suarez to beat Ali Al Habsi with poise. Suarez then netted a second before half-time when his 25-yard free-kick nicked off the Latics’ wall and found the corner — and his hat-trick was completed moments into the second period when he raced through on goal and fired low into the net. It was his 21st league goal of the campaign, moving him clear of Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (19) in the race for the Golden Boot. The result moves the Reds into seventh in the table, nine points off fourth-placed Tottenham. Brendan Rodgers made just one change to the side that had begun last time out against Zenit St Petersburg, with Coutinho replacing Jordan Henderson, though injury kept Daniel Sturridge sidelined. It was the Brazilian’s first appearance away from Anfield for the Reds — and with less than 120 seconds on the clock, he’d already made his mark on the contest. Collecting Pepe Reina‘s long ball forward, Coutinho showed brilliant footwork to dance beyond Emmerson Boyce and cross into the six-yard box, where Downing was on hand to head the visitors into a dream start. It was certainly proving an entertaining contest, with both teams pouring forward at every opportunity — and in the 18th minute, Liverpool doubled its advantage. Again Coutinho was the provider, this time slipping a ball through Wigan’s defence and allowing Suarez to go through on goal and find the back of the net with a composed finish. Wigan almost reduced the arrears soon after, though Boyce’s acrobatic effort was thwarted by an athletic leap from Reina. And the early evening kick off was to go from bad to worse for the hosts 11 minutes before the break when Suarez’s long-range free-kick took a deflection off the left shoulder of Shaun Maloney and nestled in the bottom corner. Liverpool were clearly enjoying themselves, though Reina again had to be acrobatic to deny Franco Di Santo‘s header finding the roof of the net before half-time. However, four minutes after the restart, the visitors effectively made sure of the three points when Suarez bagged his hat-trick. Glen Johnson‘s powerful surge beyond several in blue and white down the right resulted in the full-back playing a ball into the box for the Uruguayan to latch onto, and he made no mistake in stabbing low under Al Habsi. With 20 minutes remaining, Rodgers elected to replace Coutinho with Henderson, and the Brazilian playmaker was afforded a rapturous reception from the travelling support inside the DW Stadium. His teammates on the field continued to probe in search of a fifth and though it didn’t arrive, the final whistle brought an end to an outstanding afternoon’s work for the Reds. Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Luis Suarez Photo via Liverpoolfc.com
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