Monday, May 04, 2009

Match Report: LiverpooL 3 - 0 Newcastle United

Alan Shearer's Newcastle are staring relegation in the face after a 3-0 mauling against Liverpool at Anfield.

And for the former England captain, in temporary charge of the Geordies, there was even the humiliation of hearing the Kop chant: "You should have stayed on the telly" and "Alan Shearer, football genius."

To his credit, Shearer saw the funny side, and strolled to the touchline from the bench to applause from his tormentors.

But there was no funny side for his team, who were tormented by a Liverpool side that kept their own title dreams alive and maintained pressure on leaders Manchester United.

Liverpool scored in the first-half through Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt, with substitute Lucas heading the third in the final minutes.

Newcastle's misery was compounded by having Joey Barton sent off in the second-half for a crude foul on Xabi Alonso.

Liverpool were without striker Fernando Torres, due to a recurrence of his hamstring injury, while Lucas, Martin Skrtel and Emiliano Insua were also out from the side that won at Hull last week.

It meant the return of skipper Steven Gerrard following a groin problem, while Daniel Agger - fresh from agreeing a new four year contract - replaced Skrtel in defence. Albert Riera and Fabio Aurelio also returned.

Newcastle dropped former Liverpool striker Michael Owen to the bench, while Jose Enrique was out with a hamstring injury. Joey Barton came into midfield with Peter Lovenkrands up front.

The seriousness of Newcastle's position in the table was evident from their vibrant start to the game.

Obafemi Martins fired over from 15-yards while Barton's drive smashed into Agger's face. Barton, Alan Smith and Nicky Butt were snapping away in midfield as Newcastle took the game to their hosts.

Liverpool's first effort was a Gerrard free-kick from 25 yards after he had been pulled down by Fabricio Coloccini. Then Gerrard unleashed a 30-yarder that Steve Harper palmed away at full stretch.

Next it was Dirk Kuyt, with a far-post header from Aurelio's cross, who failed to hit the target.

Newcastle needed something to justify their efforts, because Liverpool were ominously coming into the game.

It almost came when Barton put Lovenkrands clear in the box, and after rounding Jose Reina, slid in a shot that Alvaro Arbeloa stopped in the six-yard box.

Liverpool's pressure finally produced a goal after 22 minutes. The ball had fizzed into Newcastle's box from both left and right flank before Kuyt claimed possession.

He moved towards the bye-line before squaring the ball into the six-yard box. Three defenders watched as Yossi Benayoun slid in to forced the ball home from a yard out, his fourth in seven games.

Newcastle appealed for offside, and it was mighty close, a matter of inches and the sort of decision that goes against a struggling side.

The goal was the 300th in the Premier League under Rafael Benitez, and the side have now managed the highest league tally in a season under the Spaniard.

But there was no doubt about the second after 28 minutes when Kuyt's diving header from Gerrard's corner left Harper with no chance. The Newcastle marking was dreadful, with Habib Beye allowing the Dutchman a virtual free run at the ball for his 15th of the campaign.

It could have been worse for Newcastle when Xabi Alonso saw a curling 30-yarder bounce down off the bar with Harper beaten after 39 minutes.

Harper saved at full-stretch to his left as Agger crashed in a 24-yarder, Newcastle having allowed him to advance unchecked from his own half.

Newcastle sent on Jonas Gutierrez for Lovenkrands at the break, but this was a tall order now for a side who had managed one win in their previous 17 games.

Gerrard, Agger and Riera went close as Liverpool moved the ball around with efficiency and pace.

Newcastle's remarkable fans had been singing themselves hoarse, but their team were getting nowhere.

Smith was booked for a foul on Arbeloa and Ryan Babel replaced Riera, Liverpool seemingly moving towards three more points.

Alonso struck the bar again, this time from the edge of the box, and Babel created a good chance for Gerrard.

It got worse for Newcastle after 77 minutes when Barton received a straight red-card for a two-footed lunge at Alonso right in front of the Kop.

Alonso was eventually carried away on a stretcher, with Lucas taking over.

Owen and Kevin Nolan came on after 80 minutes for Mark Viduka and Martins. Coloccini was booked for a foul on Gerrard with eight minutes left.

There was time for Lucas to head the third from Aurelio's free-kick after 88 minutes.

David Ngog then replaced a limping Javier Mascherano and Gerrard hit the bar in the finals seconds.

Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Pleased With Win Over Newcastle United

Liverpool swept Alan Shearer's Newcastle United aside 3-0 at Anfield today, thanks to strikes from Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva, but manager Rafa Benitez felt that they could have netted more.

"I think it was a good game, but could have been better as we had plenty of possession and a lot of chances," Benitez told his post-match press conference.

"We had opportunities to score more goals. To hit the crossbar three times in one match is enough! But in winning 3-0 and keeping a clean sheet, we have a lot of positives."

"We knew that mentally they could have some problems if we scored first.

"That was the key, but you could see at 2-0 they were still working very hard so scoring the third goal was important for us to finish the game."

Liverpool are now three points behind United, and Benitez wants his men to collect maximum points from their three remaining fixtures in order to keep the pressure levels intense right until the very end.

"We have to win our games. It is the only solution for us - keep winning games and put them under pressure."

There were some injuries to the Reds too, with Xabi Alonso being forced out of the action thanks to a Joey Barton tackle, for which the Toon man received a red card, and Javier Mascherano also picked up a knock. Spanish superstar Fernando Torres was not risked from the start, but could be in line for a return soon.

"Mascherano twisted his ankle and Xabi picked up a knock," Benitez explained.

"He [Alonso] has some bruising, but I think he will be okay in a few days.

"Fernando had a problem with his hamstring and it would have been a risk to play him today. In the end we decided to leave him out of the squad, which I think was the right decision.

"I think he will be back next week. He was very close today, but to start with him could have been dangerous.

"To keep him on the bench, maybe without a proper warm-up, could have also put him at risk, but I think he will be ready for next week."

Steven Gerrard: It's Good To Be Back For Liverpool

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard today returned from injury to help the Reds to a convincing win over Alan Shearer's seemingly doomed Newcastle United side, as goals from Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva made sure that the points remained at Anfield.

And the skipper's delight in both his return and the manner of his side's victory was apparent when he spoke to Setanta Sports after the game.

"It's nice to be back," he said. "Obviously no one like being injured, it's frustrating.

"So it was nice to come back into a good performance and a good three points."

As for one of the game's talking points, the sending off of Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton, for a tackle on Xabi Alonso that forced the Liverpool midfielder off the field, Gerrard trusted that referee Phil Dowd had done his job correctly.

"I didn't really see it," he added. "It was in the corner. It was far away.

"I asked the referee if it was a red and he was convinced he got the decision right, so we'll move on."

The result also keeps the Reds' faint hopes of winning the Premier League title flickering, and Gerrard echoed the sentiments of his team-mate Jamie Carragher, in asserting that his team would battle on until all possibility was extinguished.

"It's not at an end until it's over," he added. "We'll keep fighting until the end.

"Manchester United have got a big Champions League game midweek and hopefully Manchester City can do us a favour next week. But realistically we know they're favourites."

Jamie Carragher Still Believes In Liverpool Title Bid

Liverpool swept Newcastle United aside 3-0 with ease today at Anfield, keeping their faint hopes of the Premier League title alive, and considerably denting the Magpies' hopes of avoiding relegation in the process.

Centre-back Jamie Carragher was cheered by the victory, and maintained after the game that he and his team-mates still felt that the dream of capturing the title had not yet evaporated.

"We can only look after ourselves now," he told Setanta Sports. "We've said it for a while now. We're in great form and we want to keep that going until the end of the season and see what happens.

"Manchester United got a great result there [at Middlesbrough] in what we thought would be a difficult game for them in between the two Champions League games. Credit to them, they've done their job.

"We've done ours now and we'll carry it on as long as possible."

As for the quality of today's win, secured thanks to goals from Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva, Carragher felt it was further evidence of the Reds' current form, a factor that kept their title hopes alive.

"We played well,” he added. "Newcastle are fighting for their lives. It was never going to be easy, but I think with the form we're in now, if we keep playing like that a lot of teams will find it difficult against us.

"But we just have to look after ourselves and at the moment we are playing well."

Reds Join Negredo Chase

Liverpool have joined the race to sign Almeria star Alvaro Negredo, who admits he would love the chance to move to Anfield. can reveal that Negredo is on Rafa Benitez's list of targets for the summer.

Negredo has been one of the real stars of La Liga this term with 19 goals for unfashionable Almeria.

In his two seasons with Almeria he has now bagged 32 goals and his exploits have not gone unnoticed.

Fulham made an unsuccessful effort to sign him in January, while Aston Villa are also keeping a watching brief.

Liverpool are now ready to make a move for the player, although his situation is somewhat complicated in that Real Madrid have first option on him until the end of June.

He was with Real Madrid - albeit mainly their second team - before he joined Almeria, but they inserted a buy-back clause of £4.4million which they are now likely to activate.

This will mean they can sell him on, with reports suggesting they would want £9.8million and it seems Liverpool would be willing to pay this sum.

Negredo, at just 24, represents real potential and Benitez is keen on taking him to England.

The player himself has revealed that Liverpool have made contact.

"To play next to Fernando Torres at Anfield is a dream and any player would accept that," he told

"But I prefer to talk about reality and I have not spoken with Rafa Benitez, but I do know that some contact exists between the clubs."

Negredo concedes that Real Madrid will ultimately decide where his future lies.

"My future depends on Real Madrid, but I believe that this summer I will be out of Almeria," he continued.

"I am grateful to Almeria because they have given me my chance to play in the Primera Liga.

"But it is logical that I am interested in playing in the Premier League and especially Liverpool.

"I believe that playing in England would be a great chance for me as this league is a sensational place for forwards."

Benitez: United Will Slip Up

Rafael Benitez still insists Manchester United will make enough mistakes to enable Liverpool to catch up with the champions in the title race.

The Reds destroyed Newcastle 3-0 at Anfield on Sunday, though the scoreline could easily have been more embarassing for Alan Shearer's side.

It pushed the Magpies even closer to relegation as goals from Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas did the damage.

The victory kept Liverpool on the heels of leaders United, three points adrift. The Reds could be top if they beat West Ham on Saturday, with United not facing Manchester City until Sunday.

Benitez is now waiting for the "two big mistakes I still believe United will make" in the title race.

He said: "Manchester United are a good team with good players, and they will need to make two big mistakes to let us in. But I still believe they can be caught and they will make mistakes.

"All we can do is to continue to win our matches and see how they handle pressure. We must win all our games to see how that affects them at the top."

Newcastle did not help themselves on Sunday with some woeful defending and with Joey Barton being sent off for a poor tackle on Xabi Alonso. He will be banned for the rest of the season.

Alonso has heavy bruising on his leg, while Javier Mascherano has turned an ankle. But Benitez believes both will be fit for Liverpool's next game at West Ham.

He also expects Fernando Torres to play against the Hammers. He said: "Fernando has suffered a slight hamstring problem. He was nearly ready for this one but certainly would not have started.

"That would have been too big a risk. And then to put him on the bench and maybe have him not warmed up enough to come on would also have been a risk."

Hair-Raising Display Proves Yossi Benayoun Is Beyond The Fringe At Liverpool

There’s a myth that fringe players don’t improve at Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool. That if a squad man went to Manchester United or Arsenal they will get better before being sold for at least as much as they were bought for.

But at Liverpool they’ll either be ignored or the confidence will be rotated out of them and they’re shipped off in a cut-price deal to Portsmouth.

Well, one fringe man is going a long way to battle against that notion… Yossi Benayoun.

Brilliant against Arsenal, he carried on where he left off against an admittedly shocking Newcastle.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s started four of the last five games, but the little Israeli certainly seems to have grasped form from almost nowhere.

He’s gone from a player that no one would really care about if he left, to one of the main men in recent weeks.

Against Newcastle he got the first in the 3-0 victory – albeit off his knee – but it was his all-round threat which was really impressive.

Switching positions with another impressive performer in Dirk Kuyt, the Newcastle defence just couldn’t cope with the pair.

In truth the Newcastle defence probably couldn’t cope with the Chuckle Brothers at the moment, but that’s not to do down Benayoun’s contribution.

When he first joined Liverpool he looked every inch a player bought for a modest fee to try and plug a few gaps.

He was the king of losing the ball, but getting the crowd back on side by winning it back straight away. Now he doesn’t lose it in the first place.

While before he used to drift out of games, now he is a constant outlet, whether it be on the right, left or through the middle.

His first touch has improved, and so has his crossing. In fact he seldom wasted a ball yesterday.

Whether this is down to Benitez grabbing hold of him in training or just a little more confidence, most Liverpool fans don’t care

The end result is they’ve got a player worth more than the £5m they paid West Ham.

When you buy players for that sort of money there is always something missing, be it a little bit of skill, physicality or mental toughness.

You just have to hope that something wakes up in them and they fix the faults.

This is the case for Benayoun, while it never will be for the likes of Jermaine Pennant.

So with Benayoun stepping up to the plate, it negates the almost constant loss of one of Liverpool’s two talismans.

It’s amazing to think that Liverpool are still in a title chase with Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard having only started 10 Premier League games together.

And as the captain returned after missing four games, Torres was left out as a precaution due to a hamstring injury.

Frustrating – especially if the title comes down to goal difference – but it’s not like they really needed them against Newcastle.

They defend like lemmings and, in the case of Joey Barton, tackle like animals.

There was just no need for his second half lunge at Xabi Alonso. The guy has a self-destruct button he constantly presses.

All this added up to another miserable afternoon for caretaker manager Alan Shearer.

“You should have stayed on the telly” chided the Liverpool fans at the end of the comprehensive 3-0 victory.

Shearer could only smile and agree on the touchline.

You’ve got to love Newcastle supporters’ optimism though, even after this.

They’ll still think they can stay up, that they’ve got the best fans in the world and that they are a massive club.

As one wag said, they could pretend the Championship was in fact the Premier League. Cardiff could be Chelsea if you squint and Barnsley’s kit looks a bit like Manchester United’s from a distance.

Going down also means they could actually win something, although they’ll be sad to learn the Anglo-Italian Cup is no longer running.

Or they’ll probably just go through a few managers and even more centre-halves trying to get back up.

Enough sniggering at Newcastle though, they’ll be plenty more time for that during the rest of the season.

For now, let a fringe man have his day.

Lucas Leiva Heading Towards Liverpool Exit Doors

According to a report in the British tabloid The Daily Mirror, Premier League outfit Liverpool are preparing to sell Lucas Leiva at the end of the season.

Reds manager Rafael Benitez has said that the club will have to sell in order to fund purchases and it seems that the 22-year-old is one of the players the Spaniard is ready to cash in on.

Since arriving at Anfield from Brazilian club Gremio in 2007, the midfielder has struggled to hold down a regular place in the starting XI, featuring only 38 times from the outset of games

It is thought that the three-time capped Brazil international will fetch a fee in the region of €6.7 million (£6m), with teams in Italy and Spain apparently interested in acquiring his services.