Talk lfc match report

Match report and player analysis by Robbie Amins at talklfc

When the fixtures were released before the start of the season, this match was supposed to be a battle for the 4th Champions League spot. Well, at least to some 'experts' and 'people in the know'. Graeme Souness probably could have known that it wasn't to be his or Newcastle's day after Craig Bellamy was forced to withdraw from the match before kick-off after sustaining an injury during the warm-up.

Rafael Benitez made an important change from Tuesday's draw with Portsmouth, switching from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, to two men upfront, with Neil Mellor slotting in alongside Milan Baros up front and Gerrard withdrawn into his more familiar central-midfield position.

Liverpool took the initiative from the start and looked more likely to score. Steven Gerrard went close when he cut in from the left and found space for a right-foot drive from 20 yards which flashed past Shay Given's right-hand post.

But probably against the run of play, Newcastle took the lead. Kieron Dyer's pass into space sent Bowyer tearing into the box to neatly set up Kluivert to fire home from six yards, even if there was a hint of offside in the build-up.

But the fans did not have to wait too long for the home team to find their equaliser. Just two minutes later, Gerrard swung a corner in from the left and under pressure from Sami Hyypia, Bramble deflected the ball into his own net.

Young Neil Mellor then decided to go for goal when he could have played in Baros. The Czech Republic striker wasn't shy to make his feelings known. But a couple of minutes later, Baros had a nice surprise in store. He turned Robbie Elliott easily 30 yards out and the Czech was in a position to shoot but then threaded a clever pass into Mellor, who coolly slotted the ball past Given from 12 yards.

It was good awareness and very unselfish play by Milan. And how many times can we say that? Baros then had a goal ruled out for a foul on Given when he went up for an aerial challenge for the ball with the Newcastle keeper.

Xabi Alonso played a glorious ball to Luis Garcia in stoppage time but his weak effort was easily saved by Given - when Baros was well placed in the centre, screaming for the ball. Garcia really should have scored there but his shot was too close to the keeper.

Harry Kewell who had a disappointing first half turned on his magic in the 61st minute. Hyypia won possession in his own half and fed the Australian, who turned past an opponent like the Kewell of old and went on to play the ball superbly into Baros' path. Baros raced away before rounding Given and placed the ball into the net with his left foot.

Newcastle's hopes of coming back into the game disappeared after Lee Bowyer was sent off for his second bookable offence. His challenge on Florent Sinama-Pongolle was too high for Graham Poll's liking and the referee took out the red card.

Baros then just missed the target with an outrageous overhead kick from Finnan's cross late on that would have put the gloss on a great display from the Czech. It would have been a contender for Goal of the Season if it came off. If only....

Man of the Match: Milan Baros

Player-by-Player Analysis

Jerzy Dudek

Was left exposed by his defence for the goal. Tried his best to play like 'the Dude' rather than 'the Dud'. Did well to keep out a Laurent Robert freekick special in the second half.

John Arne Riise

John's long passing wasn't as accurate as usual. One could tell that he was tiring but he still tried to overlap and create extra width down the left flank.

Jamie Carragher

Carra was solid and he has been in many games this season. He is a player that guarantees you at least a 7 out of 10 every week and he played well again yesterday.

Sami Hyypia

Not one of Sammy's best games. Made a few mistimed tackles and conceded freekicks in dangerous areas. He did well to pressurise Titus Bramble into scoring that own goal but defensively he was not as impressive as Carra.

Steve Finnan

Steve didn't offer much going forward like he usually does but he did well defensively. Contained James Milner very well and one of his crosses almost led to a bicycle kick goal for Milan Baros.

Harry Kewell

Harry started the game well but then faded into the frustrating Kewell. The good Harry Kewell decided to turn up in the second half. It was a superb turn to go past an opponent and a great through ball for Milan Baros to score the third goal for Liverpool.

Xabi Alonso

Xabi's passing was up to the mark as usual apart from one or two misses. Did well combining with Stevie Gerrard in the middle of the park which bodes well for the future.

Steven Gerrard

Didn't really reach the lofty heights of the high standards that he has set and didn't play to the peak of his powers. But he still had a good game and his delivery was excellent.

Luis Garcia

Luis understandably lacked sharpness considering that he's been out of action for a few weeks. Could and probably should have got his name on the scoresheet when presented with two glorious opportunity. The first chance was when Baros laid the ball to him and he lifted the ball over the bar and the second one was when he looked odds on to score only to shoot straight at the keeper.

Neil Mellor

The young striker worked tirelessly and did well. Neil decided to go for goal when he could have played in Milan but moments later he scored after good movement and link-up play with the Czech. Typical Mellor. No panic, good finish.

Milan Baros

Milan was outstanding. His pace, close control and running with the ball caused a lot of problems for the Toon Army. Did very well to set-up Mellor when in the past he would probably tried to shoot himself. Deserved the goal that he scored for all the hard work.

Antonio Nunez

Replaced the tiring Luis Garcia but didn't contribute a lot to the team. But he did help to get Olivier Bernard booked for obstructing him.

Florent Sinama-Pongolle

Flo-Po replaced Neil Mellor and gave the Newcastle defence for cause for concern with his speed. Didn't have a goalscoring opportunity but his performance was decent enough and Lee Bowyer wasn't as fast as the French kid and got himself a second yellow.

Djimi Traore

If you thought you saw Djimi Traore playing as a left winger for the last time a couple of weeks back, you were wrong. Djimi replaced Harry Kewell and took over the Australian's position as well.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez: "I am delighted the way we won playing with a good intensity and attacking mentality. We kept the ball and passed it well and the strikers worked hard up front. Baros ran the line well and was always a danger and Mellor works very hard. He scores goals and it's important he plays well for the team which he and Baros did."

"For us this was a very important game to win after the last two matches. It was important to score quickly after condeding which we did. When we went behind early on in this game we needed to show character to fight back. We created chances and produced a fine performance that will be good for our confidence as we approach a very busy holiday programme. We showed character and a good mentality, controlling the game and creating chances. I have a squad with plenty of options now and we played six players with offensive mentalities today."

"I was pleased too with Harry Kewell, he has been playing well for the last few games now. I have continued to show confidence in him and he is now playing much better for us. He's training well and he's so important for us."

"Right through the game we showed the right mentality. We conceded early on, but counter-attacked and took the game to them. By the end of the match we were making lots of chances and it could have been a bigger margin of victory for us even though they were down to 10 men."

Newcastle manager Graeme Souness: "We have had words, it wasn't a shouting match and was civilised. Probably a bit too civilised for my liking. We made a decent start and took the lead. They cancelled that out with an own goal and a goal that stemmed from a ball straight down the middle of our side."

"Liverpool probably think that was a marvellous goal but you don't see too many scored in the Premier League that go straight through the centre between two centre-backs."

"That happened again in the second half and you do not often see goals like that scored in the Premiership, straight passes being turned into goals. At 3-1 we had a chance to get back into the game when Jermaine Jenas missed a good chance, and then came Lee Bowyer's sending-off. I can't defend that, it was an obvious red card and he let down his team-mates."

Liverpool striker Milan Baros: "It's always better to play with two strikers because you have more space, and it's more difficult when you play just one against four defenders. You can play well, you get to keep the ball more and you get more chances to score goals."

"I think you can play more attacking football when you play 4-4-2, but it's not my decision, it's up to the manager. If he wants to play 4-5-1 we will respect him and do our best, if he wants 4-4-2 then we respect that too. What was important was that we wanted three points today and we got it so that's great - it wasn't easy but we got the result which is great."

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