Raheem Sterling scored clearly unnerved, a minutes silence perfectly observed, Joe Allen scored a surprise it has to be said, and Moussa Sissoko – well, he saw red. All in an evenings football for Liverpool FC and Brendan Rodgers as his men saw off the challenge of Newcastle to return to winning ways in the Barclays Premiership.
Liverpool reclaimed fifth place in the scramble for Champions League qualification last night with a well-earned win against a less than convincing Newcastle side. This was a “must win” game for the Merseysiders and a defeat would have put a serious dent in the promise given by some recent good form that has been tempered by two successive defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.
Injuries to Daniel Sturridge (again), Mario Balotelli (again), Mamadou Sakho and Adam Lallana plus suspensions for Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel meant the the squad was down to the wire. Of course this meant a start for hapless Dejan Lovren. Even Fabio Borini made the bench which shows you how bad things have become for Liverpool. A back four of Glen Johnson, Emre Can, Lovren and Alberto Moreno, behind a midfield trio of Lucas Leiva, Allen and Jordan Henderson. The attack made up of Jordan Ibe, Philippe Coutinho, and Sterling.
The hosts started brightly, following a minute silence for the 96 LFC supporters who fell victim to the Hillsborough Disaster 26 years ago tomorrow. So brightly in fact that Sterling opened the scoring on nine minutes following a pinpoint cross-field ball from Jordan Henderson finding the 20 year-old in plenty of space on the right hand side of the Newcastle box for him to control, cut in onto his right foot and slot an exquisite finish past the helpless Tim Krul. 1-0
Liverpool remained in control throughout the first half with Moreno going close, then Allen and later an audacious piece of skill from Coutinho on the left hand edge of the Newcastle box leaving two Newcastle defenders in is wake only for his low cross to elude the advancing Sterling. Simon Mignolet was largely a spectator in the first half apart from an easy save from Mehdi Abeid. Lucas failed to double the hosts lead after connecting with a tantalising free kick delivered into the box from Henderson, the big Dutchman Krul equally superb to palm away the Brazilian’s headed effort. As the half faded, the visitors came to life.
Lovren was guilty of the clumsiest of clumsy challenges on Ayoze Pérez as he burst into the Liverpool box. A stone wall penalty all day long for me but referee Mr. Mason clearly felt otherwise. The hosts were rattled and not long after, Mignolet was called into action again to deny the impressive Pérez as Can done an Alberto Moreno and strayed hopelessly out of position to leave the Spaniard able to test the Liverpool number 22 with a deft header, only for it to be palmed away to the keeper’s right.
As the second half came on Liverpool regained their composure. Another centre from Henderson on the Liverpool right was met with what must be the miss of the century so far as Sterling pushed a certain goals scoring opportunity wide to the relieved Krul’s right hand upright. How on earth the lad missed that will remain a pub quiz question that the good Lord only knows the answer to!
Borini came on for Ibe on 58 minutes and demonstrated just what a complete waste of money he’s been, running the ball into the visiting keeper whilst Coutinho and Sterling queued up at the far post for what would have been a golden chance. Luckily, just over 10 minutes later, the second goal came.
Henderson’s corner was cleared out to Sterling who’s pass to Can was redirected toward Allen. His first attempt rebounded off the Newcastle defenders but then he made no mistake with the second chance, pumping shot past the helpless Krul. After that the game really just fizzed out. Sissoko getting involved with Johnson over nothing. Handbags, they call it. Moments later, the visiting captain was off. A clumsy challenge on Lucas, left Mr. Mason with no choice but to produce a second yellow – following his altercation with Johnson – and thus getting his marching orders.
Rodgers seemed rather unenthusiastic when quizzed about Daniel Sturridge being injured after the game and he’s probably a out for the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend failing a large dose of luck. It’s shocking to think that the side only have one fit striker in Rickie Lambert and this has to be addressed in the Summer. “What about Borini?” I hear you say and, my response would be “Yes, What about Borini?” I don’t see he qualifies as a Liverpool player, let alone a striker.
Liverpool have a visit to Wembley Stadium on Sunday and with a bit of luck, the team can take a step closer to adding some cheer to what has been a largely disappointing season. What better way to turn things around than a Cup Final and a top four finish. Brendan, over to you.
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