Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 0

Last updated : 26 December 2005 By Footymad Previewer
Michael Owen made his emotional return to Anfield but Steven Gerrard's heroics made sure it wasn't triumphant.

Before the match Owen admitted he cried when he came back to Liverpool, afterwards he must have been hysterical. He didn't get a decent ball all game and the Kop let him know it with various boos and chants of "You should have signed for a big club".

It was a strange sight to see him gunning at the Kop in a black and white shirt but Liverpool worked hard to deny him and Alan Shearer and they suffered a quiet game.

The Magpies were even reduced to ten men after a Lee Bowyer lunging tackle but it made little or no difference to the final outcome.

Liverpool had the best of the opening play with Fernando Morientes getting stuck in for a loose ball on the edge of the area.

The Spaniard snuck it away from Jean-Alain Boumsong and it bounced well for Harry Kewell but he spooned it high over the bar.

Moments later it was Morientes again who won the ball inside the box, but his effort was blocked. After a few scrappy possessions the home side began to assert their dominance and on 16 minutes Gerrard opened the scoring.

Peter Crouch deftly laid the ball off to Gerrard 25 yards out, and after beating his marker the captain drove in and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Shay Given.

Graeme Souness responded by bringing on Titus Bramble for the injured Steven Taylor, much to the Kop's delight as he scored an own goal in last year's corresponding fixture.

Liverpool slowed the game down to their pace and produced some clever build-up play. They constantly looked close to scoring and Luis Garcia won a free-kick just outside the area.

Gerrard stepped up to take it as the whole Newcastle team retreated to protect their goal.

Gerrard's low driven shot evaded the wall but was stopped by Given and he then snaffled up the rebound.

But the relentless red tide could not be stopped and they scored a second on the stroke of half-time.

Crouch has received a lot of stick from Anfield critics who claim his style of play doesn't fit in with the club, however the England striker gets involved in the majority of Liverpool's attacking play. And it can't be denied that his 6'7" frame is a constant threat in the air.

It was Crouch's towering header which met Harry Kewell's cross and Given couldn't prevent the ball going in off the post.

Just when things seemed to be settling down Lee Bowyer viciously hacked Xabi Alonso to the ground and a fracas followed.

The long arm of Crouch intervened again and pushed Bowyer backwards, with some help from Gerrard. Referee Mark Halsey had great difficulty breaking up the shoving match and ended up sending Bowyer for an early bath and giving Crouch a yellow card.

Crouch was replaced shortly afterwards by Djibril Cisse, but Liverpool's win was already assured. Gerrard provided a last-gasp effort in front of the Kop after a good cross from Josemi but he was denied.