The build up to this encounter may have been dominated by the disdain of the home fans towards the recent actions of their clubs ownership. But it was the travelling Liverpool support who were left with the greater feeling of discontent and frustration come the final whistle at St James Park.
The Newcastle United fans remonstrated against the decision, this week, to oust the popular Chris Hughton, by the unpopular owner Mike Ashley. But it was the inconspicuous new man in the home dug-out, Alan Pardew, who was ultimately celebrating victory. Condemning the Reds to the latest in a succession of away day miseries for Liverpool’s suffering support.
Roy Hodgson has recently made much of his desire to arrest his side’s dire record away from Anfield. A record which attests just one away triumph domestically thus far this season. Yet this defeat is the latest in 6 away reversals this season – the club’s worst record at this stage for almost half a century. And a return of just 5 points on their travels can not really be defended
A number of reasons could be proposed for Liverpool’s struggles on their travels this campaign. Questionable tactics, lack of confidence and generally poor team performances have all been.
As it was, a lack of cutting edge in front of goal and some below-par individual performances again hindered the cause here.
The Reds looked threatening from time-to-time and were, for periods, the superior side. But it was Newcastle who took the game by the scruff of the neck and looked the more likely side to fashion a winner.
Joey Barton eventually making the breakthrough – putting the hosts 2-1 up with ten minutes remaining. Before Andy Carroll added to Liverpool’s woes during injury time, after Dirk Kuyt had earlier cancelled out Kevin Nolan’s first half opener.
The Reds had actually begun the game in the ascendency – hope high that their travel sickness could be put to bed against a potentially distracted and vulnerable Newcastle. But it was Newcastle who fashioned the break through, though.
A disappointing goal to concede from a Liverpool perspective, as they failed to deal with a routine Barton free-kick. A set-piece straight off the training ground – the ball played in to Carroll at the far post. The young Newcastle striker beat Martin Skrtel far too easily in the air and cushioned his header down to Nolan. The Liverpool-born midfielder stole in unmarked to slot under Pepe Reina with 15 minutes on the clock.
The Reds had their chances to get back on level terms during the first half. Although failed in their efforts to gain any level of control in midfield and to exert sustained pressure on the Newcastle rearguard.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos forced Tim Krul into action. But the clearest Liverpool chance of the opening half fell to Raul Meireles. The in-form Portuguese midfielder saw his deflected, goal-bound effort cleared off the line by Jose Enrique, with Krul beaten.
However, having gone close at one end, Meireles very nearly gifted the hosts a second before the break. His poorly executed pass presented the ball to Shola Ameobi. The Newcastle forward saw his subsequent effort drift narrowly wide of Reina’s post.
The Reds produced perhaps their best football either side of the interval, as Newcastle rarely looked likely to increase their advantage. Kyrgiakos went close once-again from a set-piece – heading just wide.
But it was Kuyt who made the break-through for Hodgson on 49 minutes. The Dutchman was frustrating at times but was credited with the equalising goal, when veteran defender Sol Campbell misjudged a long ball forward. Kuyt capitalised on the error and sent the ball beyond the ‘keeper and into the corner of Krul’s net, via a deflection off Steven Taylor.
Liverpool should have used the impetus acquired from the goal to take the game to their hosts. Yet, with Fernando Torres once again labouring for form in the final third, the Reds lacked a match winner.
The continued absence of Steven Gerrard places ever increasing reliance on a sharp and effective Torres away from home. But the Spaniard is simply failing to find any kind of consistent form at present. In fact, on analysis of his partnership with David N’Gog, it was N’Gog who regularly appeared the more threatening and more composed of the two when in possession.
Torres did have an opportunity to rapidly put Liverpool ahead after Kuyt’s equaliser. Having found himself one-on-one with Krul, Torres should have found the back of the net but shot straight at the ‘keeper.
As was the case in their last away fixture – against Spurs – though, the Reds were made to pay for a lack of a clinical edge in front of goal. The stats speak for themselves – Liverpool finding the net just once from 17 efforts, whilst their opponents scored three from their 8 attempts.
As the second half progressed, Pardew’s side grew in confidence and endeavour. The dangerous Carroll sent a powerful header marginally over from Barton’s inviting cross. And the introduction of the lively Nile Ranger, in place of Ameobi, caused further concern for Liverpool’s stuttering defence.
Newcastle were rewarded for their tenacity on 80 minutes. Courtesy of further calamitous defending. A long kick forward from the goalkeeper was touched on by Ranger. And Barton reacted far quicker than the static Liverpool defenders to run beyond the defence and direct the ball beyond Reina.
Hodgson and Liverpool had no response. In fact, Carroll proceeded to rub salt into Liverpool wounds in injury time. The England striker getting the goal he had threatened all evening. The Reds defence stood off him and Carroll sent an excellent strike into the bottom corner of Reina’s goal from outside the box.
Liverpool may have been producing some much improved football at home of late. But if such pathetic away form continues to cancel out healthier fortunes at Anfield, then any progress is sure to be conspicuous by its absence.
Man of the Match
Few genuine contenders. Meireles was involved in most of the good things which Liverpool managed to muster and almost found the net in the first half.