Finnan Carragher Hyypia Arbeloa
Gerrard Sissoko Lucas Kewell
3-0, and the scoreline flatters Newcastle. Liverpool never really took it out of first gear, and was far too sloppy and wasteful at times, but still dominated both possession and the game. I don’t believe Newcastle had a shot on goal all match long.
In the first half, Liverpool was hindered by sloppiness in the final third, with Sissoko the main culprit. In the second, the profligacy of Fernando Torres meant that Liverpool had to settle for only tallying twice more, and it’s with little exaggeration I say that Torres could have scored 5.
As said, Liverpool should have been up more than 1-0 by the end of the first half. They were utterly dominant in possession and totally in control, but were also far too casual at times.
Consequently, Liverpool only ended up with two good opportunities at goal in the first half: Gerrard’s free kick in the 28th minute (his third free kick goal in 13 league games), and Torres hitting the post in the 45th. In Torres’ defense, Given should have been called for handball outside the box (it hit him on his upper arm, not his shoulder), but Torres’ subsequent attempt ricocheted off the post.
Kuyt’s goal, from a corner (two goals from set plays?) at the start of the second half made the result a foregone conclusion. And after the second goal, Liverpool was far more content to sit back, stifle Newcastle, and hit back on the break, which led to Torres’ multiple chances. Babel, coming on for Kewell in the 58th minute, assured the result after a fantastic 1-2 with Gerrard, but honestly, the result was never in doubt.
Despite frustration at some of Liverpool’s play, and the fact that I’ve complained about both Sissoko and Torres’ performances, Liverpool was the only team at the races, and it was heartening to see the players respond after the international break and the gossip over Benitez’s relationship with the owners.
Although Gerrard rarely stayed on the right, he was influential all game long, and probably the man of the match with the opening goal and an assist on Liverpool’s third (seriously, thanks for booing him Geordies, as if he needed more motivation). It was a belter of a free kick, and he’s added the ability to consistently create efforts from set pieces. And thanks to the scoreline, Benitez was able to rest him for the final 10 minutes with an eye on Wednesday.
Despite Newcastle’s lack of sustained pressure, both Hyypia and Carragher were outstanding. Carragher made a couple of lovely stops under threat from either Martins or Viduka, while Hyypia’s positioning and cutting out of throughballs was simply immaculate. After that stretch of games with two own goals and some other frights, Hyypia’s been thoroughly dominant.
Kewell was quiet at times, but played some lovely passes to unlock the defense, and was active down both flanks, while Babel was a lightning rod off the bench in his place, especially as the game opened up and Liverpool looked to attack on the counter. Both Finnan and Arbeloa looked to push forward, and I reckon that it was Finnan’s best performance so far, echoing his form last season when I thought he was Liverpool’s player of the year. And despite the criticism and the dry spell suffered since scoring two penalties at Goodison, Kuyt was all-action as usual and got on the scoresheet, his 6th of the season.
While Sissoko gave the ball away far too often, especially in the final third, both he and Lucas were a big reason why Newcastle was unable to establish possession through the middle. I also thought that Lucas, although having some of the problems putting passes together in attack that Sissoko had, was steady and assured in his first league start, and it’s clear why he’s come with so much hype.
Newcastle may not have offered much opposition, and weren’t helped by the fact the crowd was on edge the entire time. They’ve given up 7 goals in their last two games at St James’. But you can only beat what’s in front of you. And Liverpool certainly did that. Plus, it was fun to see Allardyce disconsolate on the sidelines after running his mouth about Benitez and Liverpool all season long.
Despite the international break, despite the rumors surrounding the camp, and despite key players absent, Liverpool ran amok. 3 goals and a clean sheet, on the road (Liverpool still has the best away form in the Premiership) is an excellent result to take into Wednesday’s crucial Champions League game against Porto at Anfield.