With all eyes on Andy Carroll, it was another ex-Magpie who came back to haunt his old employers with a well-taken brace, after the visitors had taken the lead in the first halfTwo goals from Craig Bellamy against his former club gave Liverpool a 3-1 win over Newcastle United, while Steven Gerrard netted his first goal since his return from a lengthy absence through injury.
The Magpies had taken the lead at Anfield in the first half courtesy of Yohan Cabaye's deflected header, but the Reds were too strong for their less adventurous opponents in the latter stages of the match, and ran out comfortable winners in the end to move up to fifth in the Premier League.
It was a slow start to proceedings, with both sides opting for a tentative 4-5-1 system leading to a crowded centre of the park. Daniel Agger’s forward run and shot from the edge of the area was the only effort of note early on, though it bobbled well wide of Tim Krul’s left-hand post.
Liverpool then found space down the left flank, but Jose Enrique’s cut-back ran straight across the six-yard line, with no-one in a red shirt near enough to get a touch. Shortly afterwards,
Stuart Downing tested Krul for the first time, cutting in from the right and hitting a low drive towards the bottom corner which the big Dutchman held well.
The hosts were bossing the possession, but they were unable to create any telling chances and, on 22 minutes, the visitors struck first.
Ryan Taylor cut in from the left and angled a cross in towards Yohan Cabaye, whose flicked header took a nick off the arm of Agger and nestled in to the Liverpool net, with Reina helpless as he moved the other way.
The goal was the spark the hosts needed, however, and within eight minutes they were level as Craig Bellamy rifled in a low drive from the middle of the box as Newcastle failed to clear their lines following good work from Charlie Adam.
With the supporters now in full voice, the hosts came within inches of a second less than ten minutes later, as Martin Skrtel flashed a header across goal from Adam’s corner.
The Reds continued to look dangerous down the wings, with Bellamy in particular looking lively, but they failed to significantly trouble a Newcastle defence which was brilliantly marshalled by
Fabricio Coloccini, who himself won almost every aerial duel against Andy Carroll.
Alan Pardew would have been keen for his side to retain better possession in the second half, and his team duly obliged as they frustrated Liverpool after the restart, who themselves were unable to pick up the tempo of the game.
Dalglish waited until the hour mark to introduce captain Steven Gerrard, and the talismanic midfielder threatened immediately after his introduction, whipping an inviting cross towards Andy Carroll which flashed across the goal mouth.
The frustrated Carroll then spurned a glorious chance, as he latched on to a Jordan Henderson pass only to touch the ball in to the grateful gloves of Tim Krul.
Liverpool’s frustration was not to last, however, as Bellamy rifled in a free kick from 25 yards which bounced between Krul and Danny Simpson to put the hosts in front.
Newcastle almost hit back immediately when Ba was played through by Cabaye, but his well-placed chip over Reina was brilliantly hooked off the line by Skrtel. And a moment later,
Carroll almost netted against his former club with a close-range header, but it cannoned back off the crossbar.
Gerrard had looked lively since his introduction, and with just over ten minutes to go, the captain made the points safe, slotting home between Krul’s legs from a tight angle after being played in by Jay Spearing.
Newcastle were beginning to look disorganised for the first time in the match, and it nearly got worse for the visitors when the ball broke to Glen Johnson on the edge of the area, but the England full-back dragged his shot well wide of the mark.
The Reds continued to push for a fourth goal in the dying few minutes and Carroll had a final half-chance when Krul made a hash of a clearance outside his area, but the Dutch stopper was able to poke it away from the England striker and Downing’s lob sailed high and wide.
The match ended with the home fans in full voice for the first time in the 90 minutes, as Liverpool moved up into fifth to put daylight between themselves and Newcastle in the Premier League table.
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