Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0 – Seventy yards, three points

Posted by Barrettski on September 22, 2006, 06:52:59 PM

Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0 – Seventy yards, three points

With summer clinging on like Craig Allardyce to his daddy, some of us went into this game wondering whether the football season would actually start soon.  One point gained against the nauseating, the classless and the other lot (you do the who’s who there) meant we needed something of a spark from this game.  It came in the form of a wonder goal from Xabi Alonso and three points against a hapless Toon.

In hindsight we need not have worried.  Roeder had brought a rag tag fugitive fleet to Anfield that came to lose… in much the same way that his old side have already taken their traditional nil points home.  For our part this Liverpool team showed enough class to win the game but too many lapses in concentration to convince anyone of title winning credentials.  Make no mistake, a fully functioning side would have put Newcastle away for four or five here tonight.

The Geordies lined up with the usual acres of flesh on show at the Annie Road End.  In front of them Steve Harper (sportsman) stood in for Shay Given (ouch) in nets.  Across the back Carr, Ramage, Moore and Babayaro looked leakier than a Government department.  In midfield a sprightly Scotty Parker was joined by Milner (lightweight), Emre (confusing) and Duff (of Blackburn fame).  Upfront we saw Martins inspire confidence (but only in our own transfer dealings) and the combined limbs of Shola Ameobi that sometimes worked in unison but often cried out for a conductor.

Liverpool lined up with Pepe in nets (2/10 clean sheets completed).  The back four saw Finnan and Carra as the familiar machinery and Aurelio and Agger as the increasingly promising new parts.  Momo and Xabi started in the middle with Luis Garcia on the right and Stevie G on the left, in the middle and a few other places besides.  Bellamy started, if only to provide the Geordies something to sing about.  Infront of him we saw a true centre forward in the form of Dirk Kuyt.

The reds kicked off attacking the Annie Road End and began applying pressure in the opening minutes.  Some old fashioned training ground understanding resulted in Kuyt slotting a pass for Gerrard to latch onto, only for Harper to beat him to it.  Shortly afterwards a fabulous turn from Garcia was matched by his through ball to Bellamy.  Clear on goal, Bellamy could only manage a lame effort to Harpers left.  Further efforts from Garcia were easily saved and Kuyt, ever impressive in the air, headed wide.

For their part, Newcastle managed only managed to test Reina with a long range effort from Parker and test Agger’s patience with a sustained onslaught from Ameobi’s limbs.

Liverpool’s passing was patchy in places but sublime in others.  At their best, the reds moved the ball round, testing and teasing a Newcastle midfield that boasted Scott Parker and not a lot more.  In one such sequence Newcastle were shifted to the left allowing Xabi to find Finnan in behind Carr on the right.  Stevie’s early cross was the kind that goes in off any part of the body, if you’re there… and Kuyt was there.  His movement had been a feature of the game up to that point so it was only fitting that it produced the opening goal.

A thumping Kuyt overhead kick saw us into the break with a one nil lead that was both as slender as Kate Moss and came with the annoying and ugly side kick – not Doherty, but that feeling that we hadn’t capitalised on our chances.

The second half began with a flurry of hand ball incidents and penalty appeals.  Ameobi conspired to fall over a jumble of limbs in our area; TV pictures confirmed them to be his own.  Minutes later a pinball contest, also in our area, saw the ball come off a couple of our defenders – notably Carra’s chest.  Naturally a flurry of mock “handball” shouts rang round the ground afterwards, but to be fair I think Villa fans already have that gag down to a tee.

The middle parts of this half were characterised by further missed opportunities.  Garcia had clearly had his Weetabix and looked dangerous.  He skipped past assorted statues down the left to drag the ball back to Dirk who faced a side foot finish that was probably easier than he had expected.  He diverted it wide - a face in hands moment. 

Bellamy managed to go one better though. Kuyt and Gerrard’s industry up front forced a blocked clearance that Bellamy skipped onto.  One on one with Harper, Bellamy feinted to put the keeper down and put a delightful chip over him.  Sadly that delightful chip also cleared the right upright and we all had a face in hands moment.

Further chances fell to Aurelio (Harper equal to a well placed free kick), Kuyt (a simple header from Aurelio’s cross on the six yard box that inexplicably went wide), Sissoko (his free header from a corner spinning wide) and the pick of them all as Garcia took an over the shoulder pass from Gerrard to hammer his volley against the inside of the near post. 

With Newcastle bustling around upfront thoughts turned again to the nightmare 1-1 scenario.  Chances were scarce, but still scary enough.  A free kick on the edge was blocked by the wall and Martins screwed a decent shooting chance high and wide. 

We needed a second goal to quell the nerves and reward the pressure.  Up stepped Xabi Alonso.  We all know that hovering-over-the-seat moment when Liverpool press the Kop end.  It usually comes when a through ball arrives at its destination or a cross comes in.  So, when Xabi received the ball in the centre circle, I for one was sitting firmly on my arse.  I was still there when he looked up and put his foot through the ball.  Nano seconds later Harper was on his arse and I was bouncing around.  True enough, had he managed to back pedal he might have avoided a Seaman moment, but take nothing away from what has to be the goal of the season.  Sixty five or seventy yards out, Alonso had picked his spot, pinged it with incredible accuracy and secured three points with something that Pele had tried and failed to do.  Simply breathtaking.

This game was now over as a contest, bar the singing and a few comedy “shoot” moments of course.  Kuyt and Gerrard were spared the full ninety minutes in preparation for Spurs and a warm feeling at last returned to Anfield to match the last of the summer air.  Tottenham will most certainly provide a better organised and more robust challenge to our credentials but for the moment we should enjoy the spectacle, we’ve just witnessed yet another “I was there” moment in football and hopefully the start of our season proper.

Redmen performances:

Reina:  Mostly untroubled.  Had one Grobbelaar moment early in the second half but contrived to keep hold of the ball.  One derby howler doesn’t make a bad keeper, history tells us that.

Finnan:  Solid and dependable in defence, available and incisive on the overlap in attack.  A fantasy league managers dream and on this performance, probably Rafa’s too.

Carragher:  Enough of a performance to banish the demons of the derby.  Still working with Reina and Agger to develop the kind of telepathic link we need between the three of them.  Made some quality snuff challenges and didn’t look unruffled the Toon attack.  The credit for the clean sheet goes down to him and Agger for me.

Agger:  Anyone replacing a fully fit Sami must be a quality player… and given his performances so far Daniel has shown this on merit.  This was another test he passed.  The flailing arms of an Ameobi would have many of us looking for him in the car park afterwards.  But this isn’t Saturday or Sunday league and Agger handled himself and the task in hand admirably.

Aurelio:  Now here’s a conundrum for Rafa.  He’s quick, powerful, defends by covering ground rather than using Finnan-like nouse and provides a decent option at free kicks.  In fact he’s so similar to Riise that I wonder who’s going to get the games this season.  Good performance from him, but gave possession away too easily and that positional sense is going to get him in trouble at some stage.

Luis Garcia:  Had the kind of game to rubbish his “luxury player” critics.  This was a hard working performance with added skill that created two great chances and almost netted him a contender for goal of the season (the non-Xabi version of that competition that is).  Staked his claim for being rotated less frequently (as close as many will get this season).

Gerrard:  A driving and energetic display that saw him come in off is left flank frequently to galvanise proceedings when the need arose.  This was vintage Gerrard.  I’m not in the camp that likes to see him start out wide, but it was effective.  He, Xabi and Momo have enough of an understanding to play the flexible game… which ultimately gave Parker and Co too much to handle.

Alonso:  Man of the match performance for me, if only for the defence splitting pass to Finnan and the wonder goal to seal the points.  Xabi also added brawn to class with a number of challenges and the kind of tracking back schools should video.  Sheer quality and deserving of the praise that rang round the ground throughout the second half.

Sissoko:  Had a schizophrenic game for me.  One moment he’s reading the game and claiming possession like it’s rightfully his at all times.  The next (and this is when he has the ball) he’s absent minded and kind of lackadaisical (name that film?).  Will we see him making way for Stevie playing in the middle?  You see, Momo provides a blanket of defensive mopping up activity and he’s bloody good at it too. 

Bellamy:  Not quite on his game but still a handful.  I’d like to have seen him run the channels more, pressurise full backs and play havoc and create space for others.  To be fair, he did this on occasions and provided more than one decent chance.  Sadly most will remember him in this game as the player who dinked it over Harper at the Kop end but wide – when we were all aching for a second goal.

Kuyt:  How do you describe Dirk?  He has the movement of a Fowler, the bustle of a Dalglish, the heart of Eric Meijer and the work ethic of an Ian Rush.  Today we also saw he has the centre forward nouse of Rushie as he latched onto Finnan’s cross to open the scoring.  A potential legend in the making, but should have had three tonight.  Bellamy’s cross was a side foot to be slotted and the header wide surprised him as much as any of us.

Kop:  Slow to get out of bed for a midweek game and mostly uninterested in Geordie taunts.  Only Xabi managed to liven up proceedings, that and a cameo warm up from Sami.  Minor comedy moments provided by Xabi “shoot” and Toon penalty appeals “hand ball”.

Them:  Colourful and here in number as usual.  Treated us to all the usual favourites, had a predictable poke at Bellamy, including a refreshing bottle of water that he drank from.  Then proceeded to lower themselves with the frankly puerile cockney drivel that is “your support is fucking shit”.  Lads, do yourselves a favour.  Drop it and return to some semblance of respectability.

© Barrettski 2006

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