Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle United
Friday, December 30 2011
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
There were two changes made by Kenny Dalglish to the Liverpool side that drew with Blackburn on Boxing Day. Jay Spearing was back after serving a suspension, but Luis Suarez was unavailable due to a one match ban for improper conduct. Maxi Rodriguez dropped to the bench so Craig Bellamy, Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique all lined up in Red against their former club.
Steven Gerrard continued to start amongst the subs after returning from an ankle problem. Liverpool had drawn six of the last seven home league games and were looking to close the gap on the London and Manchester sides above them.
Newcastle made just the one alteration to the XI that beat Bolton. Slovenian teenager Haris Vuckic replaced Leon Best for his second Premier League start, leading to a change of formation. Top scorer Demba Ba was retained despite being a doubt for this encounter. Mike Williamson partnered Fabricio Coloccini again following a lengthy layoff. Defensive midfielder Cheick Tiote played against the side which the tabloids are describing as one of his potential suitors.
Early dominance in possession for the hosts yielded no tangible reward, and that made for a subdued opening with them attacking their famous Kop. Enrique dragged a wonderful ball across the face of goal but it lacked any takers in red to tap it in. Stewart Downing had the first shot on target, but it was easy for Tim Krul at his near post. Totally against the run of play however, Newcastle took the lead with a deflected effort.
Ryan Taylor’s left wing cross was flicked on by Yohan Cabaye and went in off the shoulder of Daniel Agger. It was a soft goal to concede from Liverpool’s perspective, especially in light of their opponents’ poor record against them at Anfield. The home side’s response was swift. Four minutes after going behind and just before the half hour mark, King Kenny’s men were level.
Charlie Adam saw a cross blocked, but the rebound fell to Bellamy unmarked inside the area to place the ball perfectly into the corner of the net. Martin Skrtel glanced a header just wide of the visitors’ goal from a set piece. Going behind certainly sparked the Reds into life. They looked to their skipper off the bench in the second half to inspire them to the win, but at that time Newcastle were enjoying plenty of the ball.
Gerrard did provide something for Carroll to attack, but the big striker’s touch let him down with a clear sight of goal. With a quarter of the match remaining, Tiote was adjudged to have fouled Agger and Liverpool were awarded a free kick. Bellamy went direct with the set piece, putting it straight in, and squeezing the ball through a narrow gap between Krul and the defender on the line, to put his team in front. The presence of Carroll, although he didn’t get a touch, was instrumental.
Moments later Skrtel made an incredible goal-line clearance when Ba’s shot beat the keeper, and so preserved the Reds’ lead. Up the other end, another chance for Carroll went begging when he headed against the bar from a ball in from the right flank. Gerrard made sure the points were safe twelve minutes from time when played in down the left channel by Jordan Henderson, finishing precisely from a tight angle.
A luckless night for Carroll ended when the ball wouldn’t sit up for him with the entire goal to aim at after a defensive mix-up between Krul and his defender. Liverpool ran out comfortable winners and for the time being go above Arsenal into fifth. Newcastle stay seventh, three points behind the Gunners and four adrift of their opposition here.
Liverpool: 25 Pepe Reina (c), 2 Glen Johnson, 37 Martin Skrtel, 5 Daniel Agger, 3 Jose Enrique, 14 Jordan Henderson, 20 Jay Spearing, 26 Charlie Adam (8 Steven Gerrard 59’), 19 Stewart Downing, 9 Andy Carroll, 39 Craig Bellamy (18 Dirk Kuyt 74’) 4-3-3/4-4-2
Newcastle: 26 Tim Krul, 5 Danny Simpson, 6 Mike Williamson, 2 Fabricio Coloccini (c), 16 Ryan Taylor (3 Davide Santon 46’), 25 Gabriel Obertan (28 Sammy Ameobi 85’), 24 Cheick Tiote, 4 Yohan Cabaye, 18 Jonas Gutierrez, 29 Haris Vuckic (10 Hatem Ben Arfa 65’), 19 Demba Ba 4-4-1-1
Liverpool: Craig Bellamy 29’, 67’, Steven Gerrard 78’
Newcastle: Daniel Agger og 25’
Newcastle: Jonas Gutierrez 28’, Ryan Taylor 36’
Possession: Liverpool 55% Newcastle 45%
Attempts: Liverpool 15 Newcastle 5
On target: Liverpool 7 Newcastle 2
Corners: Liverpool 7 Newcastle 0
Fouls: Liverpool 7 Newcastle 11