Saturday 10 February 2007 15:00 , Barclays Premiership


A momentous week ended in disappointment as Liverpool squandered a goal lead to gift Newcastle victory at a rain-swept St James Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds dominated for long periods but were unable to build on Craig Bellamy’s 6th minute opener against his former club and ultimately slipped to a 2-1 defeat.

Obafemi Martins capitalised on a defensive blunder to level twenty minutes later and Nolberto Solano completed the hosts’ comeback by converting from the penalty spot midway through the second half.

It’s a result that severely weakens Liverpool’s hopes of catching the top two in the Premiership and quashes the feel-good factor created by the takeover events of just a few days previous.

With Xabi Alonso suspended, Momo Sissoko made his long-awaited return from the shoulder injury that had kept him out since November, while the only other change from the eleven that started last week’s derby was the inclusion of Bolo Zenden in place of Peter Crouch as Rafael Benitez opted for a return to the tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation.

Heavy rain had put this game in doubt but, after two inspections, referee Mark Halsey eventually declared the pitch playable. The wet weather continued, however, and conditions were far from ideal come kick-off time but it was the Reds who adapted better.

On a playing surface that was understandably heavy, attempting to make even the simplest of passes was, at times, difficult on the sodden St James’ turf and players clattered into each other as they struggled to keep their feet in the mud.

Liverpool got quickly into their stride though. Jermaine Pennant was particularly lively early on and it was he who created the opening goal, bypassing Celestine Babyaro with ease on the right edge of the Newcastle area and picking out the unmarked Bellamy on the edge of the six-yard box. The home side had enough bodies back to have been confident of clearing the danger but the ex-Magpie picked his spot and guided the ball through a forest of legs to find the back of the net.

Not surprisingly, Bellamy’s goal was greeted by a chorus of boos from the Gallowgate fans who once sang his name and they continued to barrack his every touch. But the impish Welshman refused to hide and continued to be the chief tormentor of the home defence during a spell in which Liverpool should have increased their lead.

Instead, against the run of play, the next goal came about in bizarre circumstances at the opposite end. Pepe Reina reacted to a Newcastle through ball by rushing off his line to clear but the ball rebounded off the in-rushing Martins and, as a result, the Nigerian striker was left with the easy task of slotting the ball into a gaping net.

A brief home rally then saw Milner flash a long-range punt narrowly wide but Liverpool soon re-assumed the dominance they’d enjoyed prior to the shock equalising goal. Main man Bellamy was at the centre of almost every Reds attack and on another day he may have walked away with the match ball before half-time.

He twice came close to restoring the lead, first with an effort that was cleared off the line by Titus Bramble and then a shot that came frustratingly back off the bar. The Magpies were on the rack and keeper Steve Harper also had to save from Zenden as they found themselves pinned back in their own half.

The pressure continued immediately after the restart and Dirk Kuyt spurned a glorious opportunity when he fired wide from inside the box following a terrific Cruyff-esque turn.

At this point, Liverpool looked the most likely winners but Newcastle were allowed to gradually force their way back into the game and their revival was rewarded when they took the lead from the penalty spot. John Arne Riise was adjudged to have tripped Steven Taylor and Solano sent Reina the wrong way from the spot.

As the game neared its conclusion Liverpool became less effective as an attacking force and, as the final whistle sounded, were left kicking themselves for not having made the points safe when they had the chance.


Liverpool: Reina, Riise, Agger, Carragher, Finnan, Zenden, Gerrard MBE (captain), Sissoko, Pennant, Bellamy, Kuyt. Subs – Hyypia, Guthrie, Arbeloa, Crouch, Dudek

Newcastle United: Harper, Babayaro, Bramble, Onyewu, Taylor, Milner, Butt, Parker, Solano, Dyer, Martins. Subs – Huntingdon, Sibierski, Luque, Srnicek, Duff

Referee: M Halsey

Conditions: Wet

Attendance: Unknown

Liverpoolfc.tv Man-of-the-Match: Steve Finnan

From Liverpool fc.tv



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