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Liverpool's Pepe Reina clashes with Newcastle's James Perch as Demba Ba attempts to intervene

Liverpool's Pepe Reina clashes with Newcastle's James Perch as Demba Ba attempts to intervene

Reina is sent off for the altercation

Reina is sent off for the altercation

Kenny Dalglish watches from the sidelines

Kenny Dalglish watches from the sidelines

Andy Carroll
shows his frustration

Andy Carroll shows his frustration

Good to see you: Newcastle fans delighted Andy Carroll didn't impress as he was substituted on first return. Photo: Getty Images

Good to see you: Newcastle fans delighted Andy Carroll didn't impress as he was substituted on first return. Photo: Getty Images

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Liverpool's Pepe Reina clashes with Newcastle's James Perch as Demba Ba attempts to intervene

Andy Carroll left the pitch swearing at Kenny Dalglish and close to tears.

Pepe Reina departed after being shown a red card for his reckless head-butt on James Perch. Liverpool headed home both pointless and humiliated.

This was the a chance for Liverpool to reassert their dominance over the Magpies, close an eight-point gap and justify the decision by Carroll and Jose Enrique to leave for supposedly bigger and better things.

Having paid £41m for the pair, in the process funding Newcastle's rebuilding work, Liverpool were expected to re-establish their supremacy over opposition they had beaten six times in their last seven meetings.

Understatement

To say it did not go to plan would be a huge understatement. Rather than restore the natural order, Liverpool were reminded just how far they have fallen and how difficult it will be to climb back up.

Newcastle were excellent, and in Papiss Demba Cisse they have signed a jewel. His two goals mean he has scored seven in as many games since his January move from Freiburg -- two more than Carroll has managed in 36 league appearances for Liverpool.

It is a brutal stat that Newcastle should feel smug about, given he cost less than a third of the fee Liverpool paid them for Carroll.

Liverpool have never finished lower than eighth in English football's top flight since Bill Shankly returned them there in 1962. It is a brave man who would bet they will not this season, as the team are in disarray.

For all the positives the Carling Cup victory brought -- albeit only after a penalty shoot-out victory over a Championship side -- and for the satisfaction achieved at reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup, Liverpool are a pale shadow of the side they once were. League titles are a thing of the past, so too is the Champions League. On this evidence, coupled with that collected during their previous five defeats in six league games, Liverpool, now below Everton, are in danger of losing ground on the top clubs, not gaining it.

As for Carroll, he does not even resemble the shadow of the player he was at Newcastle. Liverpool probably should never have paid £35m for a striker with just six successful months of Premier League football behind him, but few could have predicted he would go so far backwards so fast. He naively seemed to think he would receive a warm welcome on his first playing return to Tyneside, sheltered by the back slapping and well-wishes he receives whenever he returns for a night out. The venom of the boos and jeers stung.

Carroll should have scored in the first half and his game disintegrated after the interval. When, to no great surprise, he was substituted, red-faced and emotional, he swore at Dalglish and flounced down the tunnel.

Tyneside cackled its delight, although the home fans still had Enrique to goad. The Spaniard cynically agitated to leave last summer, refusing to discuss a new contract before criticising Newcastle's lack of ambition while predicting they would never "challenge for a top-six place." They are comments that have come back to haunt him and he looked almost as uncomfortable as Carroll, eventually ending in goal after Reina's dismissal for his red-mist lunge at Perch, Liverpool having used all their three substitutes.

The Newcastle defender was superb all game and while he made the most of the contact, Martin Atkinson was right to show Reina a red card nine minutes from time.

Liverpool actually started the game brightly, particularly when they attacked down Newcastle's left, where winger Jonas Gutierrez was deployed as a makeshift full-back. There were also encouraging signs from Carroll, who looked dominant in the air, but the Geordie is just not the same player in front of goal. Beating Mike Williamson in the air, Carroll was able to run on to his own header and skip past Perch to bear down on goalkeeper Tim Krul.

The entire stadium held its breath.

Carroll took the ball past Krul, but the 'keeper withdrew his arm to allow him past. Carroll, anticipating contact that never came, tripped over his own feet. If he had stayed upright, he could have rolled the ball into the empty net, instead he was shown a yellow card for cheating.

Krul was then needed to turn a deflected cross from Craig Bellamy on to the bar, and Carroll also went close with a header after another cross from the Welshman looped up off Williamson.

Liverpool probably should have had a penalty when Danny Simpson prevented Williamson from scoring an own goal with his arm. It was another hard luck story for Dalglish to whinge about, but Newcastle soon took the lead. Hatem Ben Arfa picked the ball up on the right, drifted around Jay Spearing and delivered a perfect cross to pick out Cisse, who scored via the inside of the post.

Williamson's header hit the post early in the second half, but Newcastle's second goal came when Ben Arfa combined with Demba Ba before the ball found its way to Cisse who finished well again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent