Following Liverpool’s morale boosting 3-0 win at home to Aston Villa on Monday, eyes turned to St James’ Park as Liverpool take on Newcastle, a side rocked by the departure of Chris Hughton. Alan Pardew walked out to take his seat in a dugout to a chorus of boos from supporters, with him facing a mammoth task of restoring the supporters’ faith in the new management.
Liverpool sought to arrest their alarming slide on their travels, and this game proved a perfect tonic to send out a message to their contenders that Liverpool are firmly intent on that Champions League spot.
However, after a scrappy opening 15 minutes, Kevin Nolan got Newcastle off to a flying start. Winning a free kick in the final third of Liverpool’s half, Barton orchestrated a move which saw Andy Carroll heading the ball across the goal mouth for Nolan to gladfully slot the ball home. TV replays showed Nolan in an offside position, but the referee probably just about gave the benefit of the doubt.
Much of the first half passed without excitement, Liverpool passed the ball well but without sufficient penetration to tear apart their opponents’ defence. Liverpool went into the break, firmly on the backfoot.
A quick start from Liverpool saw them finally back on level terms. After a defensive mix-up from Newcastle, Kuyt’s weak deflected shot thankfully slipped beyond the goal-line and into the net.
Liverpool continued piling on the pressure, but the tide turned after Nile Ranger was sent on for a limping Ameobi. Ranger was a constant thorn in the Liverpool’s defence, and later on, he and Barton combined as Barton gleefully poked home and restored Newcastle’s lead in the closing stages of the second half.
In the dying minutes of extra-time, Carroll blasted an unstoppable drive to the bottom corner as Liverpool were left reeling again. The troops were down, the manager was clueless, and all sense of direction was lost.
What now? In a game where all Liverpool fans had high expectations and confidence for, Liverpool faltered so badly. Despite having a good spell of dominance, ultimately it was Newcastle who gripped the game by the scruff of the neck and buried their chances when it mattered.
Plently of thinking for Hodgson to do. 1 away win in 9 away games is completely unacceptable for Liverpool’s standards. Either Hodgson must arrest their alarming slide on their travels, or face the wrath of a very angry NESV.