'If only' the mantra as Liverpool yet again fail to impress
Liverpool 1 Newcastle Utd 1:Brendan Rodgers’s post-match verdict was again a litany of “if onlys”. If only Liverpool had marksmen to add penetration they would not be languishing 12th in the Premier League after 10 matches. If only Luis Suarez was not the one guaranteed source of goals they could “fly”. The reality is less compelling.
Rodgers described the Liverpool performance as “outstanding” after they recovered from Yohan Cabaye’s first-half strike, but the analysis applied to Suarez alone. The first half encapsulated Liverpool’s recent home performances and the struggle facing Rodgers as he tries to implement a new style without all the components in place.
Liverpool began brightly with the movement of Suarez and Raheem Sterling stretching Newcastle and Gerrard prepared to shoot on sight. But too often, Liverpool have mastered the art of looking good without hurting their opponent.
Newcastle toiled in the opening exchanges, however, as Liverpool found space behind their midfield time and again. Coloccini commenced his exhausting afternoon of trying to keep Suarez in check with an important interception and Suso had two efforts deflected wide.
Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse gave scant protection to their full-backs but, perversely, once James Perch, one of their better performers, limped off with a thigh injury the visitors finally entered the contest. The introduction of Danny Simpson at right-back and Vurnon Anita’s switch into central midfield brought greater solidity, and Liverpool were unable to find Suarez so easily. Though it was still a shock to Anfield when Pardew’s team took the lead before the break.
From a foul throw committed by Andre Wisdom, Newcastle broke in devastating style. Ben Arfa escaped the close attention of former team-mate Jose Enrique to reach the line from Demba Ba’s pass and crossed perfectly for Cabaye at the back post. The French international had time to control before beating Brad Jones with a clinical finish across goal.
Liverpool were re-energised after the interval. Suarez and Nuri Sahin both went close as the home side dominated possession and they finally found a route to goal from an uncharacteristic long ball. Jonas Gutierrez sliced a careless pass to Jose Enrique and the Liverpool left-back launched a first time ball over the Newcastle defence. Suarez, having escaped Coloccini once more, controlled superbly on his shoulder, rounded Tim Krul and rolled the ball into an empty net.
Sterling should have added a second when sent through by Suarez only for a moment’s hesitation to allow Steven Taylor to block. Suarez also set up Jonjo Shelvey before Coloccini collected a straight red card for a dangerous foul on Suarez.
The ball had long gone from Suarez when the Argentina defender arrived late, over the ball and raked the striker’s calf with his studs. The referee, Anthony Taylor, had little option but to dismiss the defender.
A stoppage-time free-kick from Suarez bounced over Krul and on to the Newcastle bar and, for all their second-half pressure, a winner was beyond Liverpool.