Emile Heskey's first ever hat-trick in senior football has helped Liverpool to a 4-0 success at Derby County which was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline would suggest.
Patrick Berger grabbed the other Liverpool goal as they moved easily up into 4th place in the Premiership table.
The Reds were in full control all afternoon at Pride Park and not even two enforced substitutions in the opening quarter of the contest could knock them out of their stride.
Veggard Heggem limped off after just 5 minutes with hamstring trouble and then Michael Owen was stretchered off with a head injury he picked up in a packed Derby penalty area as Heskey headed the opening goal.
That first goal came on 17 minutes after a disappointing centre from Nick Barmby earned Liverpool a corner kick on the right. Gary McAllister took it and Heskey rose above the home defence to power a header past Mart Poom.
Liverpool's first half dominance certainly merited more than just a single goal interval lead but Heskey, again, Fowler, Barmby and Zeige all missed chances.
The second half too, was all one-way traffic with Liverpool finding plenty of time and space in the final third of the field as Derby tried to push forward.
The second goal came in the 53rd minute and it was a fantastic finish by Heskey. Fowler's neat pass played the ?11 million striker in and his first time shot from the edge of the penalty area gave Poom no chance whatsoever.
Liverpool looked dangerous every time they crossed the half way line and Heskey completed his hat-trick on 65 minutes when he turned a low cross from Barmby past a helpless keeper.
The Reds could afford to spurn a couple of great chances when they twice had two attackers to just one Derby defender, but the 4th goal was another cracker.
Derby were chasing shadows as Liverpool passed the ball quite beautifully in the midfield area and when Barmby's clever dummy allowed Berger some space, the Czech rifled a super shot past Poom from 20 yards.
The 4-0 scoreline certainly didn't flatter Liverpool although after the game Gerard Houllier suggested he was just as pleased with the clean sheet.
"The finishing was very good," he agreed. "But the defence was much better today so credit must go to them."
The manager was also, understandably, delighted with Emile Heskey.
"I'm very pleased for him," he said. "The boy has tremendous qualities - pace and power and at times he is more capable than he thinks. He has to believe in himself a bit more. I told him he could score a hat-trick today and he did!".
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