Bellamy (29), (67), Gerrard (78)
Newcastle United 1
As it was his old club, the media used this game, to make much of Andy Carroll’s lack of form and his apparent inability to settle on Merseyside. One journalist, whose mince pies must have been spiked, even had him regularly scooting back up to the North East wistfully singing Lindisfarne songs about going home no doubt with a tear in his eye and his possessions on the end of a pole tied up with a handkerchief!
However, although Carroll had his moments this game was partly about another ex Newcastle player. Craig Bellamy’s two goals paved the way for this welcome victory and after he departed injured, Steven Gerrard took over and reminded us of what we’d missed. Gerrard’s goal, our third, provided the three points against a Newcastle side which given our vulnerability at home were surprisingly tentative. Even when they went in front, albeit rather fortuitously, they didn’t seem to keen on taking the game to us.
Kenny made three changes Bellamy and Carroll were bought in to accommodate the loss of Suarez. Kuyt and Maxi made way and Jay Spearing returned from his ban. As expected, Gerrard remained on the bench.
The first twenty minutes or so befitted a game between two teams next to the each other in the table. It was fairly even and tentative stuff with no clear cut chances created unless you count Downing’s long range effort that was easily dealt with by Krul in the Newcastle goal.
It seemed to be a tired game and it was us who received a wake up call with Cabaye nipping in front of Agger get on the end of Gutierrez’s cross to nod past Reina. Or was it Agger who got the final touch, who cares anyway?
It was a daft goal to concede but in fairness to us we responded quickly. Adam’s low hard cross ricocheted off Tiote but it fell nicely to Bellamy who smacked it home, low and hard into the corner from just behind the penalty spot.
Things improved and we upped the work rate. Skrtel got on the end of Bellamy’s corner to flash a dangerous header across the face of the goal that no one could get a final, decisive touch on. However although nothing more was created before going into the break, we looked more lively and determined as things assumed a more “natural Anfield order” with Newcastle having to defend as we probed and tested their lines.
The second half started in feisty style with Adam, from an elbow from Tiote and then straight after Spearing, with a tackle on Cabaye, in the wars. It was Adam’s last meaningful involvement as he was replaced by Gerarrd on the hour after Newcastle had got back into the game a least in terms of keeping the ball if not actually doing anything meaningful with it!
As the game meandered on we finally got something to spark us. Agger was bought down by Tiote about twenty five yards out. Ideal territory for Gerrard one would assume however, Bellamy took the honours and stuck it home. The pace of the ball, plus Carroll’s presence as a distraction, no doubt played a part but I think it went through the lot of them without a touch – Carroll, Cabaye, Simpson and Krul, Bellamy’s goal. His reward? An elbow in the face courtesy of Coloccini. Accident or not? Newcastle nearly hit straight back after Ba got in behind us and his shot, from an acute angle looked to be heading for an equaliser however, Martin Skrtel got back to valiantly clear off the line.
Although we were in the lead the common thread throughout the game was to try and pump it long, from anywhere, for Carroll to get on the end of. This failed and made us look one dimensional and predictable without Suarez’s guile, skill and self sufficient ability to make things happen. The only time this policy looked effective was when Gerrard came on. Carroll was perked up by a series of decent deliveries from the captain and he was unlucky not to score when he thundered one of them against the bar.
Perhaps Gerrard will provide the something that is missing from Carroll’s game he could do with it as prior to this the supply line wasn’t that great? Nonetheless one shouldn’t complain too much especially when Gerrard capped a great cameo by picking up Henderson’s neat through ball to slot home from a widish angle. A vital cushion and more importantly the first time we’ve scored three in the league since the Bolton game in August.
So, feel those goals everyone and Happy New Year!
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Henderson, Downing, Spearing, Adam (Gerrard 59). Carroll, Bellamy (Kuyt 74) Substitutes: Doni, Carragher, Kelly, Gerrard, Maxi, Shelvey, Kuyt
Newcastle: Krul, Coloccini, Simpson, Williamson, R Taylor (Santon 46), Cabaye, Gutierrez, Tiote, Obertan (Sa Ameobi 84), Vuckic (Ben Arfa 65), Ba Substitutes: Elliot, Santon, Perch, Ben Arfa, Best, Sh Ameobi, Sa Ameobi