Liverpool gave their hopes of qualifying for next season's Europa League a huge boost with a comfortable 3-0 win over Newcastle at Anfield.
Goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez were enough to secure all three points for the Reds who have leapfrogged Tottenham into fifth place in the Premier League.
The hosts took only ten minutes to break the deadlock as Rodriguez, who scored a hat trick against Birmingham last week, half volleyed a limp looking effort onto Danny Simpson to see it deflected in past a helpless Tim Krul. Luis Suarez was then fortunate to be given a penalty just before the hour mark, which Kuyt dispatched with consummate ease. The game was then settled only six minutes later, as Suarez latched on to the ball inside the area to coolly finish past Tim Krul.
The inclusion of Andy Carroll on the Liverpool bench held the potential of an explosive atmosphere, with the travelling Toon fans making their displeasure known to the man that left St. James’ Park for £35 million in January through a chorus of boos as he warmed up. The smile that greeted it suggested that the striker wasn’t overly concerned with the less than cordial reception from his former supporters. Glen Johnson also returned to the Liverpool squad, going straight into the starting eleven in place of Jack Robinson, the 17-year old who has so impressed in recent weeks.
Alan Pardew opted to stick with the same side that was lucky to draw at Blackpool last week, possibly making a statement to the new Newcastle boardroom regarding the threadbare nature of his squad with the summer transfer window fast approaching.
It was the hosts that started the stronger at a bouncing Anfield with Luis Suarez in particular looking dangerous. Liverpool ploughed forward at will for little reward until the 10th minute, having seen chances for Suarez and Spearing go begging. The ball fell to Rodriguez who saw his half volley take a wicked deflection off Simpson and bounce cruelly past Tim Krul. A fourth goal in two games for Rodriguez, who had been largely anonymous until the breakthrough.
The hosts were looking to extend their early lead and were being aided by some kamikaze football from the visitors, with Jose Enrique's calamitous and nervous cross-field ball nearly setting Suarez on his way only minutes after the opener as Newcastle failed to get out of the blocks until the game was nearing the 20 minute mark.
It was a full-blooded affair and as the Magpies' influence grew on the game, both sides were finding openings which could be exploited. A lovely ball from Joey Barton to the feet of Peter Lovenkrands should have been utilised to greater effect, but the Dane struggled to control it, much to relief of the onlooking Kop.
Taking it to the Maxi | Rodriguez celebrates his somewhat fortunate 10th minute opener
For all of Newcastle's endeavour, their fragility at the back was clear. Jay Spearing, who had been struggling to escape the reaches of Tiote, finally found space to unleash a rasping low effort in the 25th minute, only for Krul to get down and stop it. He fumbled the bouncing ball but recovered just ahead of a pouncing Kuyt.
Chants of "You let your city down" greeted Andy Carroll as he moved from the bench to warm up on the half hour mark, as Newcastle looked to turn the tables with quarter of an hour remaining in the first half. Barton was proving the most likely to break down the Liverpool defence that was dealing manfully with a barrage on their box. You sensed, from all quarters, that Liverpool were waiting for the half-time whistle.
The second half nearly started in ideal fashion for the visitors who, having the moved the ball superbly from the back, should have taken the lead within the opening minute as Joey Barton struck a powerful low effort just wide of Pepe Reina's near post.
The hosts responded superbly and could have easily doubled their lead only a minute later as Suarez picked up the ball on the right hand side of the area and lashed a terrible left-footed effort on to the head of Williamson only for fortune to favour Pardew's men this time as the ball bouced harmlessly wide.
Newcastle's luck wasn't to last however, as on the 59th minute Suarez fell on the edge of the box under a soft challenge from the impressive Williamson. The Uruguayan went to ground and Peter Walton pointed to the penalty spot to the incredulity of the Magpies man. Kuyt dispatched it confidently in front of the Kop to ease the fears of those in Anfield.
From there the hosts were cruising and it took less than six minutes for Liverpool to find their third through Suarez as the Uruaguayan, finding space in the area from a great squared ball from Kuyt, slotted past Tim Krul to all but settle the match with 25 minutes still to play.
With Newcastle having no answer, Kenny Dalglish shuffled the pack and to a crescendo of noise, replaced Maxi Rodriguez with Andy Carroll, as Anfield entered party mode at one end and baying for blood at the other, as the Toon fans made clear their displeasure of the towering England international.
Alan Pardew's men found some pride and looked to take the game to their illustrious hosts as the game neared its conclusion but the result hadn't been in doubt for some time and as the teams left a sun-drenched Anfield pitch, dreams of Europe looked ever increasingly like reality for Liverpool.
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