Sunday, December 12, 2010

Newcastle 3 - 1 Liverpool

Alan Pardew's reign as Newcastle United manager got off to the perfect start as a turbulent week on Tyneside ended with victory against Liverpool at St James' Park.
Newcastle's fans gathered hours before kick-off to stage noisy protests against owner Mike Ashley in the aftermath of his controversial decision to sack the popular Chris Hughton and replace him with Pardew.
And banners were unfurled on the Gallowgate End in support of Hughton as Pardew took his place in the dug-out moments before kick-off to a muted response from the Toon Army.
The discontent had turned to delight by the final whistle, however, as Pardew's new charges delivered a display designed to dispel any doubts that they are not throwing their weight behind the new man in charge at St James' Park.
It was two Merseysiders, in the shape of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton, who helped shape Liverpool's downfall, although Roy Hodgson's side were also the architects of their own demise with a wretched performance.
Nolan gave Newcastle an early lead after Andy Carroll headed down Barton's free-kick, but they were pegged back just after half-time when Dirk Kuyt sent a deflected shot past Tim Krul.
And after Fernando Torres wasted a chance to turn the tables and put Liverpool in front, it was Newcastle who finished the stronger and more vibrant side to run out deserved winners.
Barton took advantage of more hesitant Liverpool defending to restore Newcastle's lead with 10 minutes left - a goal greeted ecstatically by owner Ashley as he was hugged in the directors' box - and Carroll rounded off a memorable victory for Pardew with a low, long-range shot.
At the final whistle Newcastle's fans cut short their victory celebrations to launch another broadside against Ashley, indicating that the ill-feeling sparked by Hughton's dismissal has not been erased by a single victory.
Pardew needed a fast start to ease the discontent swirling around St James' Park two hours before kick-off - and a routine free-kick that resulted in a 15th minute lead provided it.
Liverpool could hardly say they were hit with a shock tactic as Barton aimed his free-kick towards the giant figure of Carroll at the far post, but the striker rose easily above Martin Skrtel for Nolan to arrive in trademark fashion to provide a low finish past Pepe Reina.
Liverpool, without exerting any concerted pressure on Newcastle, still had opportunities to equalise as Sotirios Kyrgiakos had a shot saved by keeper Krul and Raul Meireles saw a deflected effort cleared off the line by Jose Enrique.
Newcastle were almost gifted a second after 35 minutes when Meireles presented the ball to Shola Ameobi, but his shot took a touch off a Liverpool defender and went just wide.
Liverpool ended the half in the ascendancy as Kyrgiakos headed just wide, but it needed a touch of good fortune to restore equality after 49 minutes.
Netherlands striker Kuyt pounced after a long ball hit Sol Campbell's back, but still needed a hefty glance off Steven Taylor to send his effort out of Krul's reach.
The goal briefly galvanised Liverpool and dented Newcastle's confidence. Fernando Torres should have put Liverpool ahead within seconds when he was left with only Krul to beat in the area, but he shot straight at the keeper.
Newcastle, however, were not short on spirit and endeavour and Carroll only just failed to direct his header on target from Barton's inviting cross, before Pardew made his first change after 63 minutes.
Nile Ranger replaced Ameobi, and almost had an immediate impact as he outmuscled Skrtel only to shoot across the face of goal.
Newcastle had responded impressively to Liverpool's leveller, and deservedly regained the lead with 10 minutes left, although it was again the product of wretched defending from Hodgson's side.
Krul's long-kick was flicked on by Ranger, and as Liverpool's defenders stood almost motionless Barton reacted first to swoop and direct the loose ball beyond Reds keeper Reina.
Carroll then got the goal his performance deserved when he punished Liverpool's defence for standing off by firing home an emphatic third.
Newcastle's overjoyed supporters revelled in a win that takes them up to eighth in the Premier League at the conclusion of a contentious week.

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