WIGAN, England (AP) -- Luis Suarez netted a hat trick Saturday as a rampant Liverpool beat Wigan 4-0, putting the Uruguay forward atop the Premier League scoring list.
After Stewart Downing put the visitors ahead in just the second minute, Suarez effectively decided the game by making it 3-0 by the 34th - his second goal coming with a stroke of luck as he slipped when taking a free kick but the ball deflected off the defensive wall and into the net.
He then completed his hat trick shortly after the break for his 21st league goal of the season, putting him ahead of Manchester United's Robin van Persie on 19.
He joins Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres as the only Liverpool players to score at least 20 goals in a Premier League campaign. Suarez has now scored 15 goals in as many matches in all competitions, making him one of the top contenders to be crowned player of the year, along with Van Persie and Tottenham's Gareth Bale.
"He's such a pleasure to work with,'' Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "He has quality, finishing, work-rate and that's what makes him world class.''
The win kept Liverpool in seventh place, while Wigan is only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Downing set the tone for Liverpool as he lost his marker in the penalty area to head home a cross from the impressive Philippe Coutinho, making only his third appearance since joining from Inter Milan.
Coutinho was also involved in the second goal in the 18th minute, taking a pass from Steven Gerrard and providing a perfectly-weighted ball for Suarez, who controlled it and finished clinically.
Suarez was then brought down outside the area by Gary Caldwell and stepped up to take the free kick himself. While the Uruguayan slipped as he connected with the ball, his shot clipped Shaun Maloney on the edge of the wall and beat Ali Al Habsi with the help of the post.
There was no luck involved in the third one, though, as Suarez took a pass from Glen Johnson and beat Al Habsi with a low shot from inside the area.
While Liverpool struggled to convert its possession into goals in the first half of the season, Brendan Rodgers' team has now scored 18 goals in its last six league games - including two 5-0 victories.