Friday, 30 December 2011

Stevie G Seals Magpies Win

Returning skipper Steven Gerrard sealed victory over Newcastle following two Craig Bellamy goals as Liverpool rose to fifth in the Premier League.

Gerrard, who made his second appearance since returning from injury, capped a fine cameo when he tucked in late on.

Bellamy had earlier fired in a low shot after Daniel Agger had diverted Yohan Cabaye's cross past Pepe Reina.

And the former Magpie gave Liverpool the lead from a free-kick before Gerrard scored from a tight angle.

His goal was fully merited after a performance which invigorated Kenny Dalglish's side just as Newcastle were beginning to claw their way back into the contest.

The only surprise was that Liverpool had not added a third goal sooner, such was the quality of Gerrard's deliveries into the box.

But unfortunately for them, Andy Carroll had another night in which he failed to find the target despite crashing a header against the bar from a delicious Gerrard centre.

After a period in which Liverpool have struggled to turn chances into goals and have drawn six of their nine games at Anfield coming into this match, Gerrard's return to form will give them a huge lift as they embark on their quest for a Champions League spot.

And it will also give them hope that they can sustain that challenge should leading goalscorer Luis Suarez receive a lengthy ban for alleged racist comments towards Patrice Evra.

Bellamy took the Uruguayan's place after he was banned for making a gesture towards Fulham's fans, and the Welshman was a constant threat down Liverpool's left as he looked to support lone striker Carroll, who was up against his pervious club.

While the two former Magpies were full of endeavour, their willingness to be involved in the build-up meant there were several occasions when there was no-one in the box to finish their good work.

And in keeping with their promising season thus far, Newcastle withstood the early pressure to pounce from an isolated attack on 25 minutes.

Top scorer Demba Ba has lit up the Premier League this season with 14 goals in his last 13 games and his presence had a hand in the goal as Ryan Taylor's cross from the left was nodded on by Yohan Cabaye and with Ba in close quarters the ball diverted off Agger past Reina.

Having been on top up until that point, Liverpool were stung into life by that goal, although the visitors almost looked like they had cleared the danger.

Cheick Tiote cleared Charlie Adam's low cross from the right, but with men lined in front of goal, Bellamy found the bottom corner.

Dalglish's side pressed further after that and Martin Skrtel went close with a near post header from a corner, with Adam also inches away from diverting it into the net.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew introduced Davide Santon at the break and it seemed to stem the flow down Newcastle's left as the Magpies began to improve their ball retention and their status in the game.

That was enough for Dalglish to bring on Gerrard, and the Liverpool skipper was involved straight away twice picking out Carroll, with the striker being let down by a poor first touch on the second occasion when he was unmarked in the box.

Fortunately for him and Liverpool, they took the lead on 76 minutes when they were a tad lucky to be given a free-kick when Tiote challenged Agger.

Bellamy stepped up to curl a delicious free-kick in, but Danny Simpson made a real hash of defending the line by deflecting the ball past Tim Krul.

Newcastle came close to equalising soon after when Ba somehow clipped the ball past Reina from Cabaye's cute pass, with the Frennch midfielder perhaps fortunate not to be punished for an earlier tackle on Jay Spearing, but Skrtel's goal-line clearance was equally as impressive.

Carroll then smashed a header against the bar from Gerrard's cross, but the returning talisman showed his team-mate how to finish when he collected Jordan Henderson's through ball to finish from a tight angle.