FA Premier League
Sun 3rd May 2009 @ 1.30pm, Anfield
With Man United winning against a weak ‘Boro side yesterday, Liverpool needed a win to keep the pressure on at the top of the table.
The reverse fixture in December against the Magpies saw Liverpool walk out 5-1 winners in what was arguably the best performance of the season by the reds – but could that be replicated? Well … not quite, but it was still a good performance all the same – with Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva all managing to slot past an in-form Steve Harper.
Newcastle were quicker out of the starting blocks and were dominant in possession for the first ten minutes, but for all of that couldn’t muster up anything other than an early corner – which resulted in nothing.
Apparently the tempo at which Newcastle started didn’t phase Liverpool, because from then on the reds were absolutely rampant.
The first chance fell to Steven Gerrard from a free-kick that resulted when he was brought down by Coloccini outside the box. Gerrard’s effort was heading towards the bottom-corner, but Harper kept watching the ball through the crowd of players and made the save.
The next chance for the reds to take the lead fell to Gerrard again, and with the Newcastle defence backing off was given a decent shooting opportunity – which he took brilliantly, only for him to be denied again by Harper. Déjà vu, anyone?
Again and again the reds rushed forward with that free-flowing, attacking football we’ve become all too familiar with – and eventually a chance fell to Dirk Kuyt when Albert Riera whipped in a teasing cross only for the dutchman to head it wide of the far-post.
Liverpool kept on knocking and knocking, and eventually the breakthrough was made on 22 minutes when Newcastle eventually managed to clear their box and Viduka stupidly headed the ball back to Gerrard. The cross was whipped in to Kuyt who then squared it to Yossi Benayoun for a-kneezy finish. 1-0 Liverpool.
The resurgent reds now tasted blood and wanted more. 1-0 soon turned to 2-0 from a Gerrard corner – Kuyt found himself space in the box and blasted a spectacular diving header past a helpless Harper. Newcastle were officially out of this game, and it was just a question of how many.
For all the reds’ possession for the rest of the first-half and majority of the second-half, however, the ball simply refused to go back into the net. Xabi Alonso’s two dipping efforts both struck the crossbar, and Daniel Agger’s 40-yard effort was palmed away by the Newcastle ‘keeper.
In-between Liverpool trying to find the third goal and Newcastle attempting to keep their minds off their inevitable drop into the Championship, Xabi prepared his “kick me” sign, only for Joey Barton to take the bait and go into a flying tackle on our midfield maestro. Dangerous, very dangerous – and everyone’s thoughts were echoed by Phil Dowd when he showed the ex-jailbait “player” a red card.
Eventually Liverpool found the third-goal. Lucas was fouled on the edge of the Newcastle area – up step Fabio Aurelio.
A lovely in-swinging free-kick coupled with some abysmal marking by Newcastle resulted in Lucas easily clinching the reds’ third goal. 3-0.
Gerrard could have made it 4-0 on the 90-minute mark – but was denied by … yes, you guessed it. The crossbar – easily Newcastle’s best performer of the season.
Post Match Comments
“I think it was a good game, but could have been better as we had plenty of possession and a lot of chances,” Benitez told his post-match press conference.
“We had opportunities to score more goals. To hit the crossbar three times in one match is enough!
“But in winning 3-0 and keeping a clean sheet, we have a lot of positives.”
“We knew that mentally they could have some problems if we scored first,” he added.
“That was the key, but you could see at 2-0 they were still working very hard so scoring the third goal was important for us to finish the game.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso (Lucas 80), Mascherano (Ngog 89), Benayoun, Gerrard, Riera (Babel 63), Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, El Zhar, Skrtel.
Goals: Benayoun 22, Kuyt 28, Lucas 87.
Newcastle: Harper, Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Duff, Smith, Butt, Martins (Owen 80), Barton, Lovenkrands (Gutierrez 46), Viduka (Nolan 80).
Subs Not Used: Krul, Guthrie, Edgar, Carroll.
Sent Off: Barton (77).
Booked: Smith, Coloccini.
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).