Johnson Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Kuyt Meireles Lucas Maxi
Yet more utter embarrassment away from Anfield and no more than Liverpool deserve.
Other than 10 minutes after the interval, including a lucky equalizer from Kuyt and a couple of clear chances to take the lead for Torres and Ngog, Liverpool were awful again. Sloppy in possession, disorganized and reserved in attack, and conceding three simple goals. Liverpool's defending was indescribably terrible. I can't ever remember seeing a side so markedly different, and markedly worse, on the road. One win in nine away matches, with six defeats and six goals scored, just doesn't lie.
So much for Newcastle rolling over after Hughton was fired. And the early goal allowed them to defend deep with two rigid lines of four and lump balls forward toward Carroll. Newcastle's #9 had the beating of Skrtel and Kyrgiakos all day long. The lanky striker won the free kick which led to the opener, which Barton angled in his direction. Easily out-jumping Skrtel, Carroll knocked down for Nolan, who beat a static Konchesky to divert the ball past Reina. That Liverpool's Slovakian defender, who's aerially questionable at best, was marking Newcastle's main threat is unforgivable. Everyone in the stadium knew exactly where the free kick was headed – Barton did everything but shout 'it's going to Carroll' – but it made no difference.
Liverpool had chances in the first half, with Krul saving Kyrgiakos' third-minute blast and Enrique clearing Meireles' deflected effort off the line in the 33rd, but the away side were as wasteful as ever, unable to cope with physical opposition. They did respond well after the interval, and were luckily gifted a goal by the dreadful Sol Campbell. Konchesky hoofed a long ball forward, hitting the turtle-paced defender on the back. Kuyt picked up possession and was fortunate to see his strike beat Krul thanks to Taylor's deflection.
From there, Newcastle were reeling, and Liverpool should have taken the lead. Krul was well-placed to catch Torres' looping header before saving the Spanish striker's tame one-on-one effort when Campbell again proved too slow. Ngog's free header in the 54th marked Liverpool's last chance at grasping the lead, but the Frenchman couldn't make smart contact with Kuyt's cross.
Then, somehow, Newcastle seized all the momentum, mostly thanks to more shaky Liverpool defending which prompted a retreat. In the 56th minute, Carroll ran between the center-backs to meet Barton's cross around Konchesky, but headed over. The introduction of the speedy Nile Ranger also helped, and the substitute missed a sitter in the 65th, leaving Skrtel in an absolute muddle after Carroll's flick-on only to somehow shoot wide.
But Newcastle finally grabbed the winner ten minutes from time. Again, Carroll won the header over Lucas from a goal kick, Skrtel couldn't clear under threat from Ranger, and Joey Barton ghosted in to score. Just despicable Sunday league defending from everyone involved. Finally throwing caution to the wind, which meant sending Kyrgiakos forward, Carroll added gloss with an excellent long-range strike in the second minute of added time when Liverpool's defense, specifically Lucas, gave him the freedom of Tyneside.
Even with a few more chances sprinkled in, mostly due to Newcastle's (read: Campbell's) uncertain defense, it was similar to other away losses. I can't explain why Liverpool are so much worse on the road nor why the manager expects things to improve when the plan stays the same. Liverpool had next to no cohesion and simply couldn't cope with Carroll. That's the long and short of it.
No one played particularly well. Ngog was probably the best of a bad bunch, and it's little coincidence Liverpool regressed after the striker was forced off when bloodied with 20 minutes to play. Skrtel was easily the most disappointing, delivering his worst performance since his debut against Havant, which we have to credit to Andy Carroll. However, even though the players didn't perform, I can't help but fault the tactics and manager when we're told the same old story away from Anfield.
Once again, it's one step forward, two steps back as soon as Liverpool leave the comforts of Merseyside.