Sunday 17 December 2017

Liverpool coast back into European contention as Toon Army turn on former favourite Carroll

Liverpool 3
Newcastle Utd 0

Rory Smith

Their team summarily dispatched, but a victory of sorts for Newcastle fans -- at least now Andy Carroll will know the depth of their fury towards him.

That Liverpool did not even need their record signing to sweep Alan Pardew's team aside, though, amply illustrates the difference between the teams in the striker's past and his future.

This was always going to be a game dominated by the 22-year-old, even if he spent the first 70 minutes as a spectator. This was the travelling Gallowgate's chance to express their anger at his perceived betrayal.

And so they accused him of letting his city down, they revoked his Geordie status, they made a host of vile allegations about his private life. He smiled, wryly, amid the torrent.

"He is a young man with broad shoulders," said his manager Kenny Dalglish. "That's not the abuse put to bed. I'm sure he'll get more when he goes to St James's next season, but it won't be a problem."

Nor should it be. Newcastle's frustration was borne of impotence. Like the target of their hostility, they watched powerless as Liverpool eased past their opponents without £35m of striker.

Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez, the irrepressible Uruguayan, provided the goals, sending Liverpool into fifth place, above Tottenham. Europe is back on Anfield's agenda. This is a club on the up.

Carroll only appeared when the game was won, the sight of the spoils of Liverpool's raid on the North-East easily worth another goal to the hosts.

He made little impact. In doing so, he will have had more effect than he could possibly have imagined.

For all the allegations spewing from the Anfield Road end, the striker never wished to leave Newcastle. That much was confirmed in a text message exchange with the editor of one of the club's fanzine. He was being "pushed out the door," he said. Mike Ashley wanted the money.

But that his transfer was serendipitous was proved here. He left a club where the fans do not trust the owner, where the manager's position tends to be a matter of some debate, where the scale of ambition in the boardroom does not seem to match that in the stands.

He joined a club who have put 18 months of civil war and turmoil and perpetual crisis behind them and are now the rising force of the Premier League. When Dalglish took over, Liverpool were 12th. They are now fifth.

For months, Anfield just wanted this season to be over. Now they must wish it would never end. "I wish I had never got the job, as it would have meant the club had been in a better position," Dalglish said.

He is doing his best to rectify the gap between where Liverpool were and where he feels they should be.

The hosts took the lead fortuitously -- Maxi granted a shot after Mike Williamson's clearing header slipped into his path, the Argentinian scoring only thanks to a deflection off Danny Simpson -- but Newcastle's singular failure to react meant it was more than merited.

Liverpool even granted Pardew's team the freedom of Anfield in a bid to make a game of it. The hosts sat back, inviting pressure, but the visitors refused to bite.

Barely trying, it seemed, Liverpool might have extended their lead. Tim Krul gathered Jay Spearing's shot at the second attempt, with Kuyt and Raul Meireles lurking, Lucas headed the Portuguese's cross straight at the Newcastle goalkeeper when well-placed.

Newcastle finally managed a chance at the start of the second half, the subdued Joey Barton firing just wide after Kevin Nolan's cross was allowed to pass unnoticed through Liverpool's defence. The warning galvanised the hosts into action. Suddenly, Liverpool slipped into, if not top, then at least third gear.

Suarez saw one effort deflected by Williamson, then Maxi, now on four goals in two games, hit the bar with a cross. The clincher was coming. Suarez was always likely to be involved, beating Williamson to Pepe Reina's long ball, being brought down by an outstretched arm and watching Kuyt slot the penalty home. Kuyt might have headed home a third by the time Suarez got the goal his performance deserved, a crisp finish past Krul after exchanging passes with his strike partner.

Then it was time for Carroll. Now, it was about him. A cascade of boos, a stream of abuse. But the game was won. Liverpool did not need Carroll to sweep his former club away. That is what hurts. That is what will assure Carroll he is where he should be. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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