Liverpool secured a morale boosting victory over Newcastle at Anfield last night, ensuring that they ended 2011 on a high. Despite falling behind, the Reds fought back to claim all three points, the first time they have done so since their opening match of the year, when a 1-0 deficit was turned around to a 2-1 win over Bolton on New Year’s Day.
Despite their indifferent form, the Reds sat just three points behind fourth placed Chelsea before kick-off, and as such their well deserved victory last night keeps them firmly in the fight for Champions League qualification. Save for a short spell in the second half, the hosts looked the better side throughout, and it was much against the run of play that Yoan Cabaye flicked the Magpies into the lead.
Liverpool had pulled themselves level, but it was the introduction of captain Steven Gerrard, just before the hour mark, that decisively swung the game. With a renewed confidence the Reds began to pile on the pressure and twice more broke through Newcastle’s defence, making it only the second time this season that they have scored three goals in a league game.
Much was spoken in the build up to the game of these two teams’ rich Premier League history, but with Liverpool’s tight defence and struggling attack, few were expecting this to be a similar classic. The opening stages were encouragingly open, and the Reds could have had the lead when Craig Bellamy and José Enrique worked a good opening down the left, but there was no one to turn home the Spaniard’s cross as he fizzed it through the six yard box.
The home side were firmly in control of matters, though without creating much, and Anfield fell into a stunned silence when it proved to be Newcastle who took the lead. The visitors hadn’t fashioned a single chance on goal before the eventually struck, Ryan Taylor’s cross flicked goalward by Cabaye, but given the defining touch by Daniel Agger, the ball bouncing off the defender’s shoulder and wrong-footing Pepe Reina.
The lead didn’t last for long, however, and it was no surprise that it was Bellamy who pulled Liverpool level. The Welshman has a habit of scoring against Newcastle, and has been one of Liverpool’s best players of the season, something he merely confirmed when Charlie Adam’s cross broke to him off Cheik Tiote and he hammered through a crowd of legs and beyond Tim Krul.
The Reds continued to prove themselves the better side throughout the first half, but still struggled to create the number of chances they have in recent games, and as the players trudged off at the break, the tense prospect of more dropped points was clearly evident.
Newcastle made a change at the break, bringing Davide Santon on for Taylor, the starting full back having been perilously close to a second yellow card as he struggled to deal with both Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing running at him.
The start of the second half saw the visitors look a little more lively, but before ten minutes had passed since the break they should, unquestionably, have been reduced to ten men. Tiote went into a challenge on Jordan Henderson, leading with his arm, and while referee Lee Probert was preoccupied with that incident, Jay Spearing and Cabaye set in on a collision course. The Liverpool player reached the ball first but was left in pain as Cabaye caught him with a vicious, studs-up challenge which could easily have seen much worse damage done. That the Frenchman escaped any punishment whatsoever can only have been because Probert missed the incident, as he could have had no complaints were he sent off.
Soon afterwards Gerrard was sent on in place of Adam, and the Liverpool captain’s first contribution was to send over a teasing cross for Andy Carroll, but the striker was too late in moving to the ball and the chance fizzed by. He was presented with another opportunity just moments later, again Gerrard playing in a delightful ball, but having moved into the perfect position, Carroll met the ball with a woeful first touch, far too heavy and allowing Krul to claim it without trouble.
Liverpool’s lead was not long in coming, however, and Carroll was well involved, if as nothing more than a nuisance to the Newcastle defence. Bellamy lined up a long range free kick, and with Carroll distracting them, Krul and Danny Simpson got in each other’s way on the goalline, the ball taking a nick off the defender and past Krul.
In truth, the lead shouldn’t have lasted long. Newcastle, in a moment of pure class, engineered an immediate equaliser, save for an incredible intervention from Martin Skrtel. A delightful through ball from Cabaye found Demba Ba in the penalty area, and the Senegalese striker clipped a perfect shot past Reina. Somehow though, Skrtel raced back in time to clear the ball off the line and out for a corner, the Kop erupting in as much applause as they had for Bellamy’s goal.
The Reds weren’t about to rest on their laurels though, and Carroll came within inches of a goal as he met another inch-perfect Gerrard ball with a header which thundered off the crossbar. Gerrard took matters into his own hands to seal the victory, surging onto a lovely pass from Henderson and sliding a left-footed shot beneath Krul.
After all the frustrations of recent weeks, it was fitting that the club’s talisman returned to inspire them to victory, hopefully a sign of what is to come in 2012.
363 – The win over Newcastle was the first time that Liverpool have come from behind to win a Premier League match since their victory over Bolton on New Year’s Day 2011, 363 days prior.
29 – Liverpool attempt more cross per game than any other team in the league. The Reds, on average, cross the ball 29 times per game, 2 more than nearest rivals Everton.
10 – Daniel Agger started for the 10th successive game for Liverpool, the first time he has done so since joining the club.
100 – Jordan Henderson made his 100th Premier League appearance in the match against Newcastle.
18 – Andy Carroll’s header which hit the crossbar marked the 18th time the Reds have hit the woodwork this season, more than any other side in the league.
“I thought it was a fully deserved victory. We showed great courage, commitment and desire to get back into the game after losing a goal. We equalised, Martin had a great clearance off the line and I think we deserved to win.
“It’s probably the game where we’ve created the least chances as well, but we’ve scored three goals. It’s funny how that happens.
“I’m not relieved, just satisfied that we got what we deserved. If we got what we deserved in every other (home) game and won the games drawn to have five more wins, I don’t think it would have been unreasonable.” Kenny Dalglish believes Liverpool fully deserved their victory over Newcastle.
“Steve came on and made a massive difference in the last 30 minutes.
“Some of the stuff he does you just can’t teach. We have definitely missed him and we’re just glad to have him back.
“It’s a big lift for everyone having our captain back out there. He’s been training hard, working well with the fitness lads and hopefully he will be starting games again soon.” Glen Johnson is delighted to have Steven Gerrard back in the Liverpool team.
“Bring it on. They are a fantastic team who have started the season really well but we’ve got nothing to fear.
“We showed against them here a couple of weeks ago that we more than matched them.
“These are exciting games, we don’t fear these and these are the games as a player you want to play in. I can’t wait.
“We’ve been very strong on the road. It’s at home that we haven’t got the results our football has deserved but we will go to City full of confidence, we will give it our best shot and see where it takes us.” Steven Gerrard is excited about the challenge of facing Manchester City.
That Liverpool won and came from behind to do so was an encouraging end to the year. When compared to the last match of 2010, a 1-0 home defeat against Wolves which left the Reds just three points above the relegation zone, it has to be considered that they have come a long way in a year. There is still a long way yet to go, but with a fit Steven Gerrard along for the ride, the destination seems that little bit closer.
On a personal note, this is my final match review for Kopsource. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for the site (and I will be back with some ad hoc blog posts) and I wish Liam and Dom all the best as I’m sure Kopsource will go from strength to strength in 2012.
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