Liverpool 3 Newcastle United 1

Last updated : 19 December 2004 By Footymad Previewer
Liverpool and Newcastle United have been perennial heirs to the title 'best of the rest' in recent seasons.

But on the evidence of a thoroughly entertaining afternoon's football at Anfield the Toon are a world away from challenging the Reds for that coveted fourth place.

Graeme Souness' return to the club where he made his name started badly, with the loss of Craig Bellamy in the warm up, and got slowly worse.

Liverpool started brightly, pummeling Newcastle with a string of early attacks.

After just 90 seconds Milan Baros blazed past a pedestrian Olivier Bernard and cut the ball back for Luis Garcia only for the Spaniard to blast a glorious chance wide from seven yards.

But Newcastle slowly grew in confidence as an end to end game that was full of attacking enterprise began to unfold.

Bernard had one of United's best chances of the half, rasping a vicious free-kick inches wide after Patrick Kluivert, who replaced the injured Bellamy, had been felled on the edge of Liverpool's box.

And in the 32nd minute the breakthrough finally went Newcastle's way.

A previously anonymous Kieron Dyer found space in the centre of midfield, charged forward and played a delightful ball through to the onrushing Lee Bowyer.

The former Leeds United man beat the offside trap as Liverpool's defence stood static. He slid a square ball to Kluivert and the Dutchman tapped home the opener on the slide.

Celebrations were short-lived however as three minutes later the black and whites failed to deal with a routine corner. Sami Hyypia rose in front of makeshift right-back Titus Bramble and distracted the former Ipswich man enough to force an own goal.

Neil Mellor could have made it two in a minute when his marauding run ended with a tame shot.

But the new Kop hero made amends two minutes later when he capped a breathtaking ten minutes of goalscoring action.

Baros received a pass with his back to goal, turned a hapless Robbie Elliott inside out, and flicked a clever pass to Mellor 15 yards out.

The big striker didn't need a second invitation to add to his run of recent goals as he slotted a side-footed effort past a despairing Shay Given and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

With the last kick of the half Luis Garcia could have made it three but after bringing Xabi Alonso's long ball down beautifully his curled left-foot shot was saved expertly by Given.

Liverpool started the second half as they had ended the first. Passing with purpose they drove forward and bombarded the Newcastle box with shots and crosses in a frenetic opening few minutes.

Baros had an effort ruled out after he was harshly adjudged to have fouled Given.

And with an hour gone the Reds finally turned possession into goals. Jamie Carragher dismantled a half-hearted Newcastle attack and played the ball to Harry Kewell on the halfway line.

The Australian neatly turned and slid a telling pass through the gaping hole where the Toon's defence should have been. Baros rounded Given and tapped a left-footed effort home to the delight of the Kop.

Substitute Laurent Robert stung the fingers of Jerzy Dudek with a rasping free-kick in one of Newcastle's few forays into the Liverpool half.

Bowyer then received his marching orders after clattering into Florent Sinama Pongolle. He had been Newcastle's best player on the day, and the visitors struggled at both ends in his absence.

Man of the match Baros was inches away from a stunning fourth goal five minutes from time. The Czech international directed a text book overhead kick just wide of the Newcastle goal after Antonio Nunez's clipped cross from the right.

Liverpool were good value for their win and with Garcia returning from injury, and Kewell returning to form, Rafa Benitez will hope his team can finally reach some level of consistency and make a new year's charge for a top-four finish.

Newcastle will need to buy well in January to have any chance of challenging them.