Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Sterling and Allen put Newcastle to the sword

Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen were on target as Liverpool put Newcastle to the sword and secured a relatively simple 2-0 win at Anfield on Monday night. Warming them up nicely for the FA Cup semi-final versus Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, this victory also takes the Reds within four points of fourth placed Manchester City.

Daniel Sturridge was left out of the squad altogether after feeling the effects of a hip injury suffered against Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter final replay. He now faces a race to be fit for the semi-final. In his absence, Raheem Sterling, who has courted much off-field controversy recently, began up front alongside the brilliant Philippe Coutinho and Jordon Ibe, who was perhaps predictably underwhelming on his return from injury.

After an impeccably observed minute’s silence two days before the 26th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, the away side actually began the better, Cabella seeing a shot deflected wide as John Carver’s men were on top during the opening exchanges.

That all changed, however, when Raheem Sterling responded to his critics by bagging the opener in spectacular fashion. The number 31 collected Henderson’s wonderful diagonal pass before proceeding to cut inside and curl an awesome strike into the corner of the net.

Sterling celebrates scoring the opener
It was a lovely strike from Sterling, and if he could produce that type of finish on a consistent basis then his wage demands- which the Kop mocked by singing, “Raheem Sterling, Your agent’s a kn*b”!- might be more reasonable. As it is, though, the 20-year old talent also missed a couple of sitters in the second half which explain why he isn’t worth more than the £100,000 a week the club are currently offering him.

After the opener had been scored, Liverpool were in the ascendancy for the majority of the remainder of the half, the unmarked Moreno testing Tim Krul five minutes later, before a bit of typical brilliance from Coutinho to skip past Colback and Williamson went unrewarded as there was nobody in the box to turn home his enticing low cross. The Brazilian magician was then involved in a clever free kick routine with Henderson, which fooled everyone but disappointingly ended with his effort on goal being blocked.

As the half came to a close, Newcastle came back into the match, starting with Mehdi Abeid shooting sweetly but straight into Mignolet’s arms on the half hour mark. Referee Lee Mason then harshly refused Ayoze Perez a penalty despite being well-placed to witness Lovren’s foul in the box, before Mignolet had to be on top form to turn behind the Spanish striker’s excellent header.

There was still time for Abeid to fire into the Kop in the dying seconds of injury time, as Newcastle ended the first half and then started the second period strongly. After the restart, Obertan headed wide and Abeid saw another shot blocked as Liverpool struggled to get going again. Raheem Sterling could have rectified that on the hour mark, but he somehow dribbled the ball wide with his left foot when it would have been easier to score from only a few yards out.

On 67 minutes, the Anfield crowd once again evidenced its class, as the whole stadium stood to welcome Newcastle substitute Jonas Gutierrez, who has fought testicular cancer to return to football, on to the pitch.

Three minutes later, Newcastle were charitable in return, as some horrible defending from Mike Williamson allowed Allen to fire home the loose ball from close range to double the Merseysiders’ lead and effectively end the match as a contest.

This was Allen's first goal since that 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace
It got worse for Newcastle, as Sissoko saw red after picking up a second yellow for a horror tackle on Lucas that warranted a straight red card. Liverpool couldn’t inflict more pain on the Toon, though, as they were wasteful in front of goal, Lovren heading a corner over the bar when he should have at least hit the target and Sterling unable to keep his shot down when in a perfect position to double his personal tally for the evening.

When is all said and done, however, Liverpool fans can have few complaints. This Liverpool-Newcastle match certainly won’t go down in history alongside other epic encounters with the Geordies, but it was important to get back to winning ways in the League and pleasing to see the Reds put in a pretty decent performance for the first time in a while.

Liverpool’s chances of Champions League qualification remain slim, but all they can do is keep winning to keep the pressure on the out of sorts City, and that’s what they did with relative ease at Anfield last night.


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