Five things we learned from a mixed night for Raheem Sterling at Anfield
Raheem Sterling goes from the sublime to the ridiculous; Moussa Sissoko quite rightly walks and three more things we learned at Anfield
1) It was a night of highs and lows for Sterling
It has been another up and down week for Raheem Sterling, with the Liverpool winger going into this game having been pictured using a shisha pipe before a newspaper published a video of the England player appearing to inhale laughing gas.
So with the off-field controversies and his contract stand-off planting the 20-year-old firmly on the naughty step, he needed a display on the pitch to silence his critics.
And after scoring a first-half wonder goal, it seemed as though the youngster would have the last laugh.
However, a terrible second-half miss, when he shot wide of an open goal from inside the six-yard box, made Sterling the villain again.
It would be good if he could just focus on his football, as he claims he wants to do.
2) Sissoko challenge was a shocker
Moussa Sissoko did not even wait for referee Lee Mason to send him off following the crude studs-up challenge in Lucas Leiva seven minutes from full-time, and quite right too, because it was a potential leg-breaker.
But while Mason was right to dismiss the Newcastle midfielder, the referee made a mistake by sending him off for a second yellow card when the tackle was a clear straight red for violent conduct.
Sissoko will now serve just a one-match suspension rather than the three he would have received for a straight red.
With team-mate Papiss Cisse and Manchester United defender receiving seven and six-match bans respectively for spitting last month, the madness of the disciplinary system was summed up by Sissoko earning just a second yellow.
3) Lovren is in need of a confidence boost
Dejan Lovren has endured a nightmare first season at Liverpool following his £20m transfer from Southampton last summer, but the centre-half is going to be in for a busy end to the campaign with Mamadou Sakho now sidelined for a month.
With Martin Skrtel back from suspension for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, Lovren may at least have an experienced centre-half alongside him to guide him through the game at Wembley and that was what he was missing against Newcastle.
His nerves were evident during a clumsy performance, which involved him treading on defensive partner Emre Can and leaving the German receiving lengthy treatment.
The crowd then began to turn on the Croatian following a mis-placed pass, but he is clearly a player who needs confidence to thrive.
4) Sturridge injuries woes suggest he needs extended break
The pre-match news that Daniel Sturridge would miss this game following the latest setback of his injury-ravaged season was not the most surprising fitness bulletin of the season.
Since returning from the World Cup, Sturridge has made just 17 appearances for Liverpool, scoring five goals, and his absence has been felt ever more so following Luis Suarez’s sale to Barcelona.
Prior to kick-off, Liverpool had scored 45 goals in 31 Premier League games this season compared to 84 goals at the same stage last term, so the cost of Sturridge’s injuries is borne out by those numbers.
But despite Liverpool’s targets this season, perhaps the time has come for Sturridge to be given an extended break in order for him to be fully fit and firing next season.
5) Newcastle are a club locked in a downward spiral
Liverpool versus Newcastle at Anfield is a fixture that has become synonomous with all that is great about the Premier League, due to the goals, entertainment and flair that traditionally accompanies this game.
But Newcastle no longer play their part due to the apathy now running through every department at St James’ Park after a run of just two wins in 2015.
The travelling support was a fraction of its usual numbers, but those fans who made the trip from Tyneside were vocal in their anger towards the club’s absent owner, Mike Ashley.
Newcastle is too big a club to be treated like a cash machine, but that is what it has become under Ashley and his ambition-free regime.