Newcastle 1 (Edgar 45)
Liverpool 5 (Gerrard 31,66; Hyypia 36; Babel 49; Alonso pen76)
Rafa Benitez and his men will enter 2009 with much joy as they cemented their place at the pinnacle of the Barclays Premiership after the thrashing of Newcastle at St. James’ Park.
With Chelsea failing to win at Craven Cottage, Liverpool’s lead at the top suddenly stretched to 3 points and as the performance yesterday suggest, you got to take them seriously now.
The 5-1 score line didn’t flatter Liverpool as they were rampant from the first whistle. The only thing that mitigated an utter Newcastle mauling was the fact that Shay Given was in imperious form as he made at least 5 world class saves that kept the Magpies in the game until Steven Gerrard eventually slam home the opener.
It’s rather rare that a goalkeeper concedes 5 in a match and yet still receives praise. But he totally deserves a mention here.
With Newcastle owner Mike Astley reconsidering the sale of the club, it brought some joy to the fans but it was soon distinguished by a competent and stylish display of the visiting team.
Make no doubt that Liverpool were brilliant. Yet at the same time Newcastle was put up a defensive horror show which the visitors took full advantage of. It seemed like every player in the black and white striped jersey were still having a Christmas hangover.
Their inability to defend from set pieces was evident throughout, with Ryan Babel’s goal making an absolute mockery of the defence. They played as though corner kicks were introduced for the first time in this game.
With Fernando Torres still out and Robbie Keane relegated to the bench, Rafa made a massive gamble yet again but it paid off duly. They were never in trouble even though Damien Duff’s speed caused some trouble while former Reds’ hit man, Michael Owen, had the ball in the net though it was ruled out offside (erroneously).
Liverpool bombarded Shay Given’s goal relentlessly from the start and by the 20th minute, it could’ve been already an utterly embarrassing score line for the home crowd to face.
Still with his heroics, he was absolutely hapless when Yossi Benayoun squared the ball for Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, to crash home the opener. It has the message ‘stop screwing with us’ written all over it as he powered it in off the post.
You just got to sympathise with Given.
The next two Liverpool goals came from Gerrard’s corner. Club veteran, Sami Hyypia, rose unchallenged to score his first goal of the season while Ryan Babel’s goal just demoralizes any Newcastle fan out there.
David Edgar provided some glimpse of hope for Newcastle as a lapse of concentration from Jamie Carragher gave Edgar the chance to make the score a little more respectable at half time.
Newcastle came back in the second half strongly but still couldn’t find a way past a well-marshaled Liverpool defence.
The inevitable happened when Lucas Leiva, who was enjoying every minute of the game, send a inch-perfect pass for Steven Gerrard to latch on and the captain finishes off in style.
Xabi Alonso made it a five star performance after he converted from the spot after a penalty was given to Edgar’s trip on striker, David N’Gog.
Liverpool finishes off 2008 with a flourish and do expect more to come from the Reds as they march into the year at the top of the table and beginning to look like they’ve kicked into gear.
With Fernando Torres eager to make a comeback, they can only be stronger. Rafa Benitez is indeed molding Liverpool into the new Valencia that usurped both the giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
There is no trophy for being at the top now, as they say. But would Rafa’s men thrive on pressure or would they crumble like in previous years? Let us await and see. But one thing’s for sure and that is Liverpool is moving in the right direction.