Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Riera
It was just a casual, two-nil romp. Newcastle had offered absolutely nothing since the first goal went in. And then Joey Barton, who’d had such a laughably bad game that I jokingly suggested to a friend that he was throwing it for his Merseyside brethren, scythed down Xabi Alonso, with the Spaniard leaving the field on a stretcher. And now I’m pissed. A red card and three-match ban aren’t enough for that degenerate. I don’t care if it wasn’t malicious (which it probably wasn’t). Clumsy and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
To be fair, Newcastle weren’t bad for the first 20 minutes. They looked to get forward, with Lovenkrands, Martins, and Viduka almost a three-man front (probably just as much 4-2-3-1), and actually saw a bit of the ball. Granted, Liverpool were still better, and threatened from the first minute, when Gerrard broke into the box from the left only to collide with Butt, while Kuyt should have opened the scoring with a free header in the 18th.
And in the 22nd, after an extended spell of pressure, Kuyt got the ball across the face of the goal, and Benayoun, most likely offside, was there to tap in. Yep, he's still in the best form of his Liverpool career. And yes, it was an exceptionally close decision, but Newcastle were probably hard done by. And heads immediately dropped; it was never a game after Liverpool scored.
It only took six minutes for Liverpool to tally the second, from a corner no less. Kuyt got a free run off Beye, ably aided by a delicious pick set by Agger, for a bullet diving header on Gerrard’s ball in. That's that.
It easily could have been more by halftime, with the best chance coming when Alonso pinged one off the crossbar in the 39th, but Liverpool strolled about, and Newcastle were happy to put all 11 men behind the ball in the attempt to avoid further embarrassment.
One-way traffic continued for the second half, but Liverpool couldn’t add a third, and never seemed very bothered about it. The best chances came through Gerrard, who had a fair few shots and was busy throughout, and Alonso, who crashed another off the bar in the 73rd. Four minutes later, Barton utterly lost his head and went diving in on Alonso in the corner with a two-footed tackle. Douchebag. Alonso better not be seriously injured. Mascherano also went off in the 89th after Nolan stepped on his foot. Yeah, I’m a bit concerned.
Nine minutes later, Liverpool finally added the third, from another set piece. A good ball in from Aurelio and the easiest header in the world for Lucas, unmarked from six yards when the offside trap broke down, for his first Premier League goal. And the home side could have four when another ricocheted off the post, this time from Gerrard.
The Barton idiocy and the Mascherano knock almost blind me to how easy this game was and how well the team played. The only possible complaint is the relative “dearth” of goals.
It must be something about Newcastle, because Kuyt was again outstanding as a lone striker (where he’s struggled before), just like in the reverse fixture. He held up play magnificently, scored one and assisted on another, and could have tallied more. Gerrard’s also in the man of the match discussion – a rampaging, trademark performance from which he deserved a goal. And Alonso, before he went off, was the heartbeat and pacesetter, as per usual.
And, thankfully, the defense was never, ever troubled. But to be fair, Newcastle offered nothing. I’m struggling to think of one shot on target. But seriously, nice job leaving Michael Owen on the bench. Have fun in the Championship next season. I don’t like to wish ill on the opposition, but they deserve it after that tepid performance, even if it’s the fury over Barton’s tackle that's pushed me over the top.
There’s nothing Liverpool can do but keeping playing games like this, and keep tallying three points. It’s telling that Torres, who picked up a hamstring knock in training and was left out as a precaution, wasn’t missed – although Liverpool surely would have scored more with him on the field. Three more like that please.