The build-up had been predictably focused on one man. Hometown boy and former Newcastle player, Andy Carroll, was the focus of a vocal tirade from the Anfield Road end, even prior to his second half introduction. But the visitors would have been wise to rather focus on the job in hand. And notably the threat of Liverpool’s fast improving striking duo.
Carroll began on the bench following a recent minor knee injury. And on the evidence of this performance the Geordie number 9 will have his work cut out to regain his place in the starting line-up.
Carroll does of course provide Liverpool with a different type of presence at the top end of the pitch in comparison to the likes of Kuyt and Suarez. But such selection dilemmas can only be a positive for Kenny Dalglish – a man whom is surely now only a matter a time away from being announced as the club’s permanent manager.
Carroll was introduced as 69th minute substitute. Granting the travelling support with the moment they had been waiting for. The away fans derided their former hero the home fans acclaimed their new forward. But by that point Liverpool had already secured victory. Another goal for Maxi Rodriguez, preceded second half strikes from Kuyt and Suarez and meant that Carroll’s appearance was no more than trivial.
The movement, tenacity and work-rate which both Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez demonstrated here, tormented the Newcastle defence all game long. The ever-improving understanding and interplay between the pair was deeply encouraging.
Suarez’s pace and movement was a constant thorn with which Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson and co had to contend throughout. None more so than in the build-up to the second and decisive goal in 59th minute.
The Uruguayan, chasing down a long-ball upfield from Pepe Reina, seemed to have lost the race. However Suarez refused to give up the ghost. Out-witted Williamson and ultimately won – an albeit fortuitous penalty from referee Peter Walton. Kuyt made no mistake once again from the spot.
Indeed Kuyt himself was equally as effective – complementing Suarez perfectly. The Dutchman delivered another virtually faultless performance – high on energy, endeavour and intelligence. Kuyt added to his already impressive penalty record to hit his 14th goal of the season and should have added another with a far post header soon after.
This was hardly a vintage Liverpool performance. Having begun brightly and taken the game to their opponents, the Reds faded as the first half progressed – despite Maxi Rodriguez’s deflected volley, which opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
The Reds perhaps afforded a competitive Newcastle side too much possession in the opening half. And only began to utilise the danger attacking duo of Kuyt and Suarez more affectively after the interval.
Yet, Liverpool were fortunate that in the absence of Andy Carroll in a black-and-white jersey, Alan Pardew’s side lacked any punch to threaten a home defence which had a relatively comfortable afternoon.
Jonas Gutierrez was probably the Newcastle’s biggest threat. The Argentine winger gave rookie full-back, John Flanagan some problems down the Newcastle left in the first half. Before Dalglish took the decision to switch Flanagan with Glen Johnson for the second period – a wise decision from both a tactical and man-management perspective.
Newcastle’s best opportunity fell to Joey Barton. But he shot wide when he should have tested Reina at the far post with the score line at 1-0. The Magpies also had a succession of set-pieces but these were averted without alarm by a well-marshalled Liverpool defence.
The Reds upped their game in the second half and saw off the challenge with room to spare. In fact Liverpool could even have added to a penalty from Kuyt and a thoroughly deserved third from Suarez.
To have achieved such a comfortable victory without being able to call upon the services of a number of currently injured senior players. Whilst scoring 8 goals with none in return during the last two matches, is testament to the resolve of Dalglish’s Liverpool.
Liverpool have now taken 30 points from the 15 Premier League matches which have proceeded Dalglish’s return to the helm in mid-January. A return which betters that of current league leaders, Manchester United, over the same period.
Tangible evidence if any were needed of the resurgence and revival which has occurred and is on going at Anfield. So much so, that there is now genuine belief that – with a few tweaks and additions over the summer – the Reds are capable of challenging for the biggest honours come next season.
The current squad can still be improved of course. But the key factor responsible for the upturn in the club’s fortunes can not be reduced down to mere tactical adjustments or changes in personnel.
Whilst these have contributed; it has been a change in attitude and direction which has initiated this resurgence. Everyone – from the fans, to the players, via the backroom staff – are now moving in the same direction. The players are noticeably enjoying their football far more than at an earlier stage in the season and all are eager to fight for one another.
And, with the Reds now up to their highest league position of the season and European qualification in their hands, Anfield continues to be a positive place to be.
Man of the Match
Tormented the Newcastle defence throughout and was well-worth his first Liverpool goal in sometime.