Benayoun 22, Kuyt 28, Lucas 87.
Newcastle United 0
A comfortable, straight forward victory which, after the trials and tribulations of recent four four draws was most welcome. Tensions were eased with two early goals, the sun shone and the side played well partly because it was allowed to. The only blot might be two injuries, to Mascherano and Alonso, the latter the result of the crass stupidity.
Steven Gerrard returned to the ranks but Rafa, perhaps thinking of next week’s sterner test at Upton Park, decided omit Torres to give his hamstring more time to recover. Amazingly, due their various injuries, the two have only started just shy of a dozen games together this season….. one wonders what might have been but sadly that’s all one can do.
Newcastle fielded a positive, offensive line up with Viduka, Lovenkrands and Martins. Owen was on the bench and therefore seemingly forth choice striker? Despite this puzzling decision they began positively commanding a fair bit of possession but without really testing Reina. However, it didn’t take long for the assumed “natural order” of things to be restored. Gerrard from a free kick, and twice more from distance, tried to find his range while Kuyt’s header should really have opened the scoring. However, the Dutchman’s contribution was to be more influential minutes later.
The move summed up all that appears to be wrong with Newcastle. This was litany of self inflicted mistakes. Viduka gave the ball way via an incomprehensible header towards goal in his own half. Then Smith, uncharacteristically not subscribing to the “if in doubt whack it out “ philosophy was caught napping by Kuyt when trying to deal with Gerrard’s cross. His low hard ball across the face of Harper’s goal was “kneed” in by Benayoun amid suspicions of offside.
Rather than pick over the referee’s decision, Newcastle might have been better employed looking at the defensive mistakes that led to the goal. Then concentration or application didn’t improve with our second. Kuyt, with the aid of some robust movement and blocking and Harper opting to stay put on his line, broke free from the pack to meet Gerrard’s corner with a straight forward, unchallenged, diving header.
Even at 2-0 you don’t feel completely at ease. Should the score go to 2-1 nerves and self doubt can creep in. However, Newcastle offered absolutely nothing and never looked like doing so we were allowed to look for a third with very little worry. Alonso’s effort on to the cross bar, Kuyt’s overhead kick and Agger, nearly celebrating his new deal, long range swervey curler, being the pick of a steady drip feed of chances.
The second half began with a Song. The Newcastle defenders poor header went straight to Gerrard who fired wide across the Newcastle goal. Mascherano and Kuyt maintained the assault. Babel set up Gerrard once more who had time to light a cigar, wave to his family in the stands and place a bet before firing wide! Before that Alonso brilliantly curled another long range effort on to the bar – sell him Rafa, he’s rubbish!
This was to be Alonso’s last notable contribution to the game before he was carried off. Collecting the ball out of danger by the corner flag Barton clumsily and unnecessarily rushed in and pole axed him. It was a cowardly, unnecessary assault and symptomatic of the hot headed recklessness that characterises the player on, and off, the pitch. With Mascherano also going off the week the recover will be welcome.
With ten men our chances of a third were increased and the only surprise was that it took until the 87th minute to get it. An marked Lucas, Alonso’s replacement, converting Aurelio’s free kick from the right via simple header. Gerrard strove right to the end get on the score sheet but hit the bar – a good come back but terms of getting on the score sheet one of those days I’m afraid..
So pressure on the leaders maintained. Something will have to give soon if the title race is get the conclusion or climax everyone except the Mancs wants? Perhaps with The Mancs playing an in form Manchester City next week it might come although we will also be tested at West Ham? Sadly it is simply a case of hope for us just as much as it was despair for Newcastle yesterday.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso (Lucas 80), Mascherano (Ngog 89), Benayoun, Gerrard, Riera (Babel 63), Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, El Zhar, Skrtel.
Newcastle: Harper, Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Duff, Smith, Butt, Martins (Owen 80), Barton, Lovenkrands (Gutierrez 46), Viduka (Nolan 80).
Subs Not Used: Krul, Guthrie, Edgar, Carroll.