LIVERPOOL 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
LIVERPOOL: Reina, Finnan (Josemi 78), Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Sinama Pongolle 67), Crouch (Cisse 72), Morientes.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Warnock.
NEWCASTLE UTD: Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Taylor (Bramble 28), Babayaro, Bowyer, Faye, N’Zogbia (Solano 45), Luque (Ameobi 86), Shearer, Owen.
Subs Not Used: Elliott, Harper.
Att: 44,197 .
It was all eyes on Michael Owen, but Owen’s eyes were firmly on Liverpool … because he barely got a kick all match. Jamie Carragher had him in his back pocket, and the Toon striker had plenty of time to view how his former club have progressed without him. Eutropean champions, and they looked it at Anfield against a Newcastle side that struggled right from the kick-off.
Mind you … it was hardly his fault, because the service to Newcastle’s front men was non-existent, and the gaffa’s idea of going to Anfield and attacking the Reds in their own back yard failed miserably.
It could be argued United played with ten men, but by the time Lee Bowyer picked up his red card, Steve Gerrard had crashed home his 12th of the season and Peter Crouch had seen a towering header touched onto the post by Shay Given, only for the ball to rebound in off the Newcastle keeper.
No doubt the dubious goals panel will have a look at Crouch’s effort and probably give it to Shay Given, be I don’t think the 10ft 13′ striker will be too concerned as Liverpool marched on to their eighth successive league win without conceding a goal.
Newcastle had a clutch of injured stars returning. Celestine Babayaro (groin), Steven Taylor (shoulder) and Charles N’Zogbia (hand) all returned to the side. It meant Bowyer and Albert Luque started a match that saw Owen make his first return to the club he joined as a nine-year-old.
Owen’s name produced some regulation booing on the Kop when it was announced, but nothing more. Not the ovation many had predicted. In fact it could be said the introduction of Titus Bramble as Newcastle substitute generated a bigger noise from the Livepool fans, as he is seen as a joke figure on Merseyside.
Liverpool dominated early on and Given produced a stunning one-handed block when Harry Kewell lashed a Crouch knockdown goalwards from six yards.
The first time Owen got near the Kop, for a corner, the Anfield crowd responded with ‘where were you in Istanbul?’ as their one-time hero trotted away.
Liverpool’s drive brought them a 14th-minute goal from Gerrard. Luis Garcia lifted the ball in from the right, Crouch touch it into Gerrard’s path and the Anfield skipper surged between two defenders before blasting the ball high into the net.
Newcastle were under intense pressure in midfield, trying to win possession, and then suffered the worrying loss of Taylor. He had suffered a setback in training recently recovering from a dislocated shoulder, and he was helped from the field clearly with more problems from the injury, Titus Bramble taking over on 28 minutes.
Newcastle were on the back foot frequently, but when they broke there was always danger and N’Zogbia forced Reina into a fumbled save with a fierce 30-yarder.
Liverpool hit Newcastle with a sucker punch on 43 minutes when Crouch climbed to meet a Harry Kewell cross and saw Given touch the ball onto the post, only for the ball to rebound in off the Newcastle keeper.
Newcastle brought on Nobby Solano for N’Zogbia at the break, but it did not halt the Liverpool flow.
On 50 minutes Fernando Morientes powered a header goalwards from a corner, it hit Solano on the line, but referee Mark Halsey waved away appeals for handball.
The game erupted on 66 minutes when Bowyer produced a bad foul on Xabi Alonso, having looked to have been fouled himself seconds earlier by Morientes. Crouch pushed Bowyer to the ground and players from both sides rushed to the flashpoint. Referee Mark Halsey eventually sent off Bowyer and showed Crouch a yellow card, but the big striker could easily have been red-carded himself.
Newcastle, to their credit, kept coming forward but were getting little change out of Jamie Carragher and his back line, and Liverpool indulged themselves with party pieces in the final minutes.
Liverpool 2 Newcastle Utd 0
LIVERPOOL 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0