Liverpool cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory at home to Newcastle United yesterday, with goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez securing three crucial points and moving the Reds into 5th place. The hosts never really hit top form throughout the contest, however solid defending and clinical finishing were enough to seal the win and continue our recent run of impressive results.
Kenny Dalglish made one change to the side that comprehensively defeated Birmingham City last time out, as Glen Johnson returned from injury to replace 17-year old Jack Robinson at left back. Former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll was deemed only fit enough to claim a place on the bench, while vice captain Jamie Carragher made his 665th Liverpool appearance, joining club legends Emlyn Hughes and Ray Clemence in second place on the Reds' list of all-time appearance holders.
After seven minutes Meireles' volley flashed across the face of goal in what was an otherwise slow start, with the game only coming to life when a free flowing move culminated in Maxi netting his seventh of the season, as the in form Argentine volleyed Flanagan's cross home from close range, beating Newcastle keeper Tim Krul with the aid of a decisive deflection off Danny Simpson.
Unfortunately that failed to spark the expected Reds onslaught, as Newcastle ended the first half the stronger of the two sides. Spearing's stinging drive was parried by Krul, who then proceeded to grasp the ball just before Meireles and Kuyt could reach it, however that was the hosts' single significant sight of goal after Maxi's opener.
Midway through the first period Ameobi's ambitious 30-yard effort trickled through to Reina, before the visitors' number 23 rose to head goalwards twice, only for the hosts to clear on both occasions. Barton's low corner was then hooked high into the Kop by boyhood Liverpool fan Kevin Nolan, as Alan Pardew's Barcodes entered the interval confident of finding a route back into the match following a sustained spell of pressure.
Joey Barton nearly proved this confidence to be well placed moments after the restart, as the reformed yet controversial character saw his shot fly inches wide after Nolan had dug out a low cross to the back post. Thankfully, that close escape provoked a response from the Reds, who went on to dominate the rest of the match while Newcastle failed to seriously threaten Reina's goal.
Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was predictably at the centre of all the hosts' attacking play, as he linked up well with strike partner Dirk Kuyt and remained a constant threat, nearly doubling our advantage when his shot took a huge deflection and fell just wide with Krul rooted to the spot.
Soon after Maxi's miscued cross unexpectedly struck the cross bar, moments before Suarez hounded Williamson into a fatal mistake following an up field punt from Reina, leaving him with no choice but to foul the Reds' crafty number 7 and concede a penalty. Deadly Dirk made no mistake from the spot as he coolly waited for Krul to make the first move before calmly slotting the ball into the opposite corner.
Frustratingly Kuyt's fine form from the spot wasn't reflected in his aerial ability, as he glanced a header agonisingly and inexplicably wide from close range after Raul Meireles had picked out the unmarked Dutch striker in the six-yard box. Kuyt atoned for his error five minutes later though, as he and Suarez played an intricate one-two within a crowded penalty area before the latter struck easily past the helpless Krul.
Twenty minutes from time Andy Carroll replaced Maxi and received a raucous reception from the Anfield faithful, despite inevitable jeers from the away end. He made little impact though, as the game petered out to a quiet ending, with the home side in complete control. Portugese international Raul Meireles arrowed a header just wide, however apart from that neither keeper was tested and the clock was diligently run down.
With Tottenham falling to a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge this weekend, Liverpool have moved into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League, level on points with Harry Redknapp's Londoners but with a superior goal difference. The Reds will now travel to Craven Cottage next Monday confident of improving their away form and continuing their recent resurgence ahead of a pivotal match at home to Spurs a week later.
(Thanks to Katherine Morris from our Facebook page for providing a superb title for this piece.)