Liverpool eclipse a brilliant Newcastle

 

IT WAS not just the moon that was eclipsed last night but the Toon. Newcastle, despite a brave and often brilliant performance, suffered a cruel defeat at Anfield which cast their championship aspirations further into doubt.

A brace of goals apiece from Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore earned Liverpool a victory in a match of such rich entertainment that neither side deserved to be left with nothing.

Newcastle, having conceded the first goal to Fowler after 98 seconds, twice fought back to lead with goals from Les Ferdinand David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla. The Colombian's strike came with 33 minutes left it was too long for Newcastle's always shaky defence to hold out but it was only in the dying seconds that Collymore snatched the winner.

Kevin Keegan had resisted suggestions that he should restore Keith Gillespie to the team and fielded the same XI which finished the 2-0 defeat by Arsenal II days earlier. That meant Warren Barton was dropped in favour of Steve Watson, who had scored the only goal when Newcastle knocked Liverpool out of the English League Cup at Anfield five months ago.

Watson also scored the goal that defeated Liverpool at St James' Park, but thoughts of his being a talisman quickly dissipated as his defending was exposed by Liverpool's first attack. Mark Wright played the hall forward to Fowler who laid it back to Jamie Redknapp and headed, for the box. Redknapp, playing his first Anfield game since that November defeat, swung the ball out to the left where Peter Beardsley stood off Rob Jones allowing him to touch it to Collymore. He skipped by Watson and crossed superbly to the far post where Fowler, continuing his run, headed in.

Echoes of Highbury, where Newcastle were one down after two minutes and never recovered. This time the response was very different. Ferdinand showed their mettle with a determined dribble and shot then, after 10 minutes, Asprilla weaved by Neil Ruddock and John Scales, then cut the ball back to Ferdinand who tricked Wright before driving it through David James's hands.

Point made? No, there was more to come as, four minutes later, Watson and Ferdinand combined to release David Ginola who advanced on James to score. Perhaps Newcastle could cope with the pressure. Who could say, with 74 minutes of high octane football to follow.

Indeed, Liverpool were soon back on the offensive and both Beardsley and (less surprisingly) David Batty, were booked, the latter for an awful foul on Steve McManaman. Redknapp went close from long range, Fowler, to general astonishment, missed from near in (he is human after all), while McManaman did well with a shot and badly with a header.

However, both Asprilla and Beardsley almost broke through on the counter attack as the game maintained a frantic pace. Both teams concentrate on fast passing five a side in training and it has never been more obvious.

The interval gave fans a chance to rest their throats and the players a chance to catch their breath. They needed it, for the second half began just as furiously as the first. Liverpool were nearly caught within a couple of minutes when Lee drove through the centre of their defence which had been reorganised with Wright going off but his shot was too weak to defeat James.

Ten minutes into the half Liverpool scored a goal to delight Terry Venables. McManaman received the ball on the right ran at the Newcastle defence and picked out another young England lion, Fowler, who struck the ball first time past Srnicek.

Now, Anfield wondered, would Newcastle crack? The answer was swift as Lee released Asprilla beyond the Liverpool defence, the Colombian scored with ease before cart wheeling in front of the jubilant Newcastle fans.

Newcastle were caught again in the 65th minute when McAteer curled a cross behind Newcastle's defence and Stan Collymore stabbed the ball in.

Liverpool threw on Ian Rush and, two minutes into injury time, he linked with Barnes to release Collymore to score.