Liverpool were the laughing stock of the Premier League yesterday after they fell to a humiliating 2-0 defeat at the Sports Direct Arena. A double strike from Newcastle's new signing Papiss Cisse condemned the Reds to their sixth defeat in seven League games. Former Magpie Andy Carroll also stormed straight down the tunnel after being substituted while goalkeeper Pepe Reina saw red for head butting James Perch, as the day went from bad to worse for the Merseysiders.
Under-fire boss Kenny Dalglish, who managed the Barcodes between 1997-1998, selected several ex-Newcastle players in his starting line-up. Jose Enrique, Craig Bellamy and, most notoriously, Andy Carroll began for the visitors and were widely booed throughout. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing formed a three-man midfield that fatally lacked width.
The Reds were the better side during the opening exchanges, with Jonjo Shelvey's deflected effort dipping just over the bar three minutes in. The turning point that perhaps determined the entire direction of the rest of the match arrived after nine minutes. Carroll rounded Newcastle keeper Krul and, with the goal at his mercy, appeared set to give Liverpool a crucial early lead and silence those jeering him in the stands. Ridiculously, the number 9 instead decided to dive in an attempt to win a spot kick. Referee Martin Atkinson called his bluff though and rightly booked him.
Soon after Bellamy's effort was touched onto the bar and behind for a corner by Krul. The set piece was almost deflected into his own net by Cabaye but his teammate Danny Simpson cleared from the line using his arm. Stood with one hand against the post, the 25-year old had time to realise the ball was bound to hit his arm if he didn't move it. Yet, he chose to keep his arm in the direction of the ball and hence a penalty should have been given but frustratingly was not.
To make matters worse, Newcastle went up the other end and broke the deadlock moments later. Ben Arfa was given far too much time to ping a cross to the far post, where Cisse had evaded Skrtel. The Senegal striker guided a header past Reina that rebounded off the post and into the net to give the home side the lead, arguably against the run of play.
From that point on, the hosts dominated possession, passing in neat triangles and forcing Liverpool to labour to win the ball back. Alan Pardew’s men were simply keeping the ball much better then their opposition, who looked understandably deflated and dejected.
Mid-way through the first period Carroll got his head to a deflected cross from Bellamy but it went a yard over the bar, before Ba bursted forward and saw his strike from 30 yards take a deflection off Skrtel that almost wrong-footed Reina and had the Spaniard scrambling across his goal. The final piece of play before the break saw ex-Red Danny Guthrie whip a cross in for Cisse, who connected well and headed only half a yard wide.
The second half was perhaps even worse than the first. It began with Papiss Cisse doubling Newcastle's lead and ended with Jose Enrique in goal following Pepe Reina's sending off. After Williamson's towering header had tarnished the woodwork, Cisse beat Reina in the box and, maintaining his composure, fired past Skrtel on the line and into the corner to effectively hammer the final nail into the Reds' coffin.
Skrtel then blocked a rasping effort from Ba, before Dalglish made three changes close to the conclusion in a desperate attempt to claim something from the contest. Downing, Kuyt and Henderson replaced Shelvey, Carroll and Bellamy respectively.
Frustrated with his performance and the reception he received from the crowd, Carroll disrespectfully stormed straight down the tunnel. His display was once again lacking yesterday and the pressure from both Newcastle fans angry at his departure and Liverpool fans annoyed at his form told.
Reina, who you can usually rely upon to keep his cool, was sent off with 10 minutes remaining after an altercation with James Perch. The former Nottingham Forest player had stupidly tripped the Spaniard up and, as a result, Reina responded by confronting him. Unfortunately, the situation escalated and ended with the number 25 seeing red after clashing heads with Perch.
It was an idiotic thing for Reina to do and, because all three substitutions had already been made, Jose Enrique was forced to don his jersey and stand between the sticks for the remainder of the match. More significantly, Reina's three-match ban now means he will miss the only match of any real worth left in Liverpool's fixture calendar; namely the FA Cup semi-final against local rivals Everton.
Liverpool were embarrassingly outplayed by Newcastle, a team who were in the Championship last season. It could have been so different had Carroll netted instead of dived and had a penalty been awarded and Simpson sent off for handball, all of which occurred before Cisse's opener. However, Newcastle were undeniably the better side and Liverpool deserved nothing more than what they got.
Fittingly for April Fools Day, Liverpool were a joke. But nobody in Red was laughing.