Liverpool 1 – Newcastle 1: Two Brilliant goals decide tie at Anfield
Alan Pardew made 3 changes to his team from last weekend, with the experienced Steven Taylor coming on for Williamson. Anita came in at right back with Perch filling in for the suspended Tiote through the centre. The Magpies lined up in a 4-3-3 with Ba and Cisse both starting.
Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged starting XI, though this might be more because of lack of bench strength. Gerrard started his 600th game in a Liverpool shirt, and was accompanied by Sahin and Allen in midfield.
Newcastle’s Strikers down the flanks
Newcastle had played with Ameobi and Ba up front in the previous game and that match saw the 2 bulging strikers being targeted with long-balls through the centre. But this game saw Pardew change this tactic completely. Liverpool have suffered at the full back positions and were exploited by Fellaini on Enrique against Everton. Demba Ba was deployed on this flank initially, though the Senegalese striker did not play a role similar to Fellaini.
Demba Ba did not play high up and try to dominate Enrique in the air, but rather came very deep on this flank to start the attacks from here. He then took to running the Spaniard down the flank, giving Ben Arfa space to cut in through the middle.
The other Senegalese striker Cisse has had a disappointing season and was again started on the left today. Cisse, similar to his compatriot, tried pressing on the other full back Andre Wisdom and often got goal side of the youngster. But this pressing of the full backs left no striker down the middle, and Yohann Cabaye was often seen as the furtherest forward through the centre.
This tactic by the Magpies left Liverpool centre-backs completely free and Agger and Skrtel were able to play the ball out of defense easily. Skrtel was also able to make runs from the defense into attack off the ball, but the Reds were unable to take advantage of this due to the lack of crosses put in by the fullbacks.
Pardew changed emphasis after the first 20 minutes and shifted Demba Ba to the centre of attack with Cisses still wide left. With Cabaye playing high up behind Ba, the Magpies played a 4-4-1-1 at times with Ben Arfa on the right. Ba’s shifting to the centre left Ben Arfa with much more space and freedom on the right, and it was his cross that was converted brilliantly by Cabaye.
Sterling yet again
Amongst all this, Liverpool had again started the game very brightly and they did not deserve to go into the break 1-0 down. Rahim Sterling continued with his scintillating pace and trickery, and terrorized the make shift right back Anita. This made Ben Arfa track back on the right flank and led to his disappearance from the attacks.
Sterling and Suso were accused of not tracking back on previous occasions but tonight they were far more impressive defensively. Sterling was often seen covering for the overloaded Enrique and Suso played in a much deeper role and was provided good support to the likes of Gerrard and Sahin in midfield.
Injury woes and red cards
Newcastle were forced into 2 substitutions due to injuries to Perch and Ba, and Pardew brought on Simpson and Sammy Ameobi for the 2. Ameobi’s introduction meant that Cisse shifted to his preferred central role. But his lack of form and touch was clearly showing as he always looked tentative against Skrtel and Agger. Sammy Ameobi on the other hand was far more impressive. The youngster ran at Skrtel and Wisdom down the left and beat the pair on a couple of occasions. He provided exactly what Pardew would have wanted from Cisse.
Alan Pardew was short of options on the bench as he brought on young fullback Ferguson to replace the tiring Cabaye. Ferguson played in an advanced central midfield role, and though his job would have been to pull off Allen to the wing, the youngster was seen defending most of the time in his half.
Liverpool equalized courtesy of a brilliant goal from Suarez, who was able to bring down a long ball from Enrique with utter ease. The Reds looked far more threatening in the second half and the introduction of Downing and Shelvey brought them much closer to a winner.
One player that has disappointed till now is Nuri Sahin. Rodgers has played him in a highly advanced midfield role, and the Turkish international’s tiny stature gives him little opportunity against Premier League opposition. Rodgers has an option to play Sahin in the role allotted to Gerrard right now, as the man on loan from Madrid was seen to prosper in that role at Dortmund. Gerrard, though had one of his better nights this season, surely does not have the legs to play in such a deep role throughout the season and would be much better linking up with Suarez upfront.
Overall Liverpool dominated possession and pressed well against Newcastle, but Rodgers will agasin be unhappy with his fullbacks’s contributions. Newcastle have been hit with a jolt of injuries and suspensions and were lucky not to suffer any more at Anfield.
Top of the match: Rahim Sterling
Flop of the match: Nuri Sahin