Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Liverpool 3 - 0 Newcastle Utd

A 3-0 defeat to Liverpool with Evertonian ASBO red-carded on his first appearance in the first team for three months? So predictable that the match report should have been written and posted on Saturday.

For the first half hour it seemed as though it may come down to decisions, decisions. Alan Shearer's decision to leave out the misfiring Little Saint Mick, for a start. And, after we'd made a vaguely encouraging start characterised by some neat passing, referee Phil Dowd's decision to let Yossi Benayoun's goal stand despite the fact he deflected the ball in with his knee from an offside position - this after Captain Pasty's mystifying decision to head the ball back towards his own goal. And then Dowd's decision not to penalise Daniel Agger for the cynical block on Habib Beye that allowed Dirk Kuyt a free header for Liverpool's second.

But by full time it had become apparent that even if the decisions had gone the other way, we would still have been on the end of a heavy defeat. Three minutes from time Lucas Leiva headed a third, completely unmarked from a free-kick when our attempt to play offside came horribly unstuck. Xabi Alonso struck the crossbar from distance twice, as did the returning Stevie G, who, if he'd shown the same sharpness in front of goal as he did on Tyneside, could easily have bagged himself more than just another hat-trick.

If the defending was consistently shambolic, tantamount to a constant invitation to shoot, as a offensive force we were non-existent. Obafemi Martins was anonymous after the first quarter of an hour, Captain Pasty unable to perform his one key role and hold the ball up, Peter Lovenkrands replaced at half-time by the equally ineffectual Spiderman and Little Saint Mick given little time and no opportunity to make an impact. Only Steve Harper and the doggedly industrious Nicky Butt emerged with any credit whatsoever.

And as for ASBO and his two-footed lunge on Alonso, Shearer didn't mince his words post-match: "I wasn't happy, I was bitterly disappointed at the way that happened. I asked him to stay calm in the heat of the battle but it was a stupid tackle and he deserved to be sent off". The three match suspension means that that, hopefully, is the last we'll see of him in a Newcastle shirt. To the bloke holding aloft his Barton shirt in the away end in a gesture of support: ever thought about visiting the planet Earth?

But there was some good news - and that was that every single one of our relegation rivals also lost: Stoke, Blackburn and the Mackems but most importantly Hull, the Smogs and West Brom. So, as I anticipated last week, aside from the fact that all of our goal differences are slightly worse and there's one game fewer to play, little else has changed. Shearer acknowledged as much: "This game wasn't going to save our season today but the next two will".

But that's not to say this game doesn't matter. We're a team who haven't won since 7th February but who know we need at least one win from three games to save our skins - that kind of demoralising and humiliatingly comprehensive thrashing we could have well done without. Let's just hope that Iain Dowie can impress upon the players the importance of bouncebackability before the Smogs skulk into Toon...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

(Incidentally, we're already being written off by the likes of the Guardian's Richard Williams: "It does not take a Nostradamus to conclude that there will be no happy ending". Oh how nice it would be to be able to stuff those words back down his throat.)


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