Sunday 1 April 2012 1.30pm
Newcastle United 2 (Cissé 19, 59)
I would argue it is, despite clearly Liverpool not being in the same league as Manchester United at the moment.
The towering scoreline and performance against the Mancs was remarkable but it was achieved with most of not having great expectations and seeing it as a free go against arguably the top team in England.
However, I would say today’s match has had the biggest build up by far of any of our fixtures this season, certainly on a national and international basis.
How many times have we not turned up at the big occasion, when expectations are high and we have a match that is an acid test of our aspirations?
‘You stole my Easter eggs’ (replacing ‘You stole my stereo’)
This was billed as Pardew the miracle worker v Kenny the money waster, the return of the ponytailed one, as well as of course Enrique and Bellamy.
Alan Pardew threw a curve ball before kick-off with Jonas back at left-back and the returning Tiote making up a three man midfield.
The aim clearly was to pressure the scouser high up the pitch and so the game was always going to be stretched, the question was in whose favour?
Early on we looked dangerous with the ball but Liverpool were comfortably working the ball out of defence and several times Jonas was outnumbered leading to Bellamy putting in some dangerous balls. While Bellamy was having his usual decent game against us, Enrique was strangely subdued while Carroll was all over the place and summed up his performance with a shocking dive when he could possibly still have scored, instead he got a yellow card for his pains.
Massive credit to Williamson (I was very relieved when I saw Carroll was playing as ideal when Willo is in the team) and Perch who was outstanding against Suarez.
‘You’re (Dalglish) getting sacked in the morning’
Every player though worked their socks off from the strikers to the midfield, to the defence and Cabaye must have covered every blade of grass while Tiote’s gave a performance every bit as good as the on eagainst Manchester United, I can’t give him a bigger pat on the back than that.
Perspiration only gets you so far though and on nineteen minutes Ben Arfa twisted and teased Enrique before putting over a cross that was inch perfect, just eluding the defender and Cissé’s finish was also inch perfect as his header back across goal went in off the post.
The interplay and ball retention was excellent overall but determined last gap defending also played its part as every player put their heart and soul into this pivotal match.
Cissé and Ba are absolute stars, they look to play with absolutely no edge to them, they look like they want to chase back and don’t see it as beneath them. While Ben Arfa was maybe used more sparingly but whenever he got the ball he had them on the back foot.
Cissé could have made it two with a glancing header and Williamson planted an excellent header against the post but two indeed it was on fifty nine minutes.
‘(Carroll) What a waste of money’
A flowing move saw the ball worked out of defence and Ben Arfa accelerated inside before combining with Demba Ba, the ball eventually reaching Cissé some eight yards out. He feinted to shoot and put Reina on his backside before tapping it home and putting the topping on another class performance.
Newcastle combined effort with talent and never allowed Liverpool back into the game, with Gosling replacing the injured Guthrie, Shola letting Cissé take his own personal bow as the minutes ticked by and then Ben Arfa getting his own applause as Santon replaced him almost on the final whistle.
Carroll was dragged off as was Bellamy late on, the final insult saw Reina seeing red for an attempted headbutt on Perch with Enrique seeing out the last ten minutes in goal which must have seemed a lonely lifetime as the Leazes end poured down their scorn on the departed player.
An exceptional performance from all concerned , beginning to wish this season wasn’t coming to a close.
‘Jose Enrique, we’re in the top six’
A sobering thought for Kenny is that he brings a very average Jordan Henderson and Downing off the bench and either of those cost around the same as Cabaye, Cissé and Tiote combined.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, James Perch, Jonas Gutierrez (c); Danny Guthrie (Dan Gosling 65), Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa (Davide Santon 90), Papiss Cissé (Shola Ameobi 74), Demba Ba
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic
Liverpool (4-4-2): Pepe Reina, Jon Flanagan, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Jonjo Shelvey (Stewart Downing 76), Steven Gerrard (c), Jay Spearing, Craig Bellamy (Jordan Henderson 80), Andy Carroll (Dirk Kuyt 79), Luis Suarez
Subs not used: Alexander Doni, Fabio Aurelio, Sebastian Coates, Maxi Rodriguez
Referee: Martin Atkinson