Played in rain and on a mud bath with a poor referee. Surely an excuse lies in that sentence but quite frankly we just weren't good enough. Too many squad players in midfield not performing to anything near what LFC expect.
The game was only passed fit to go ahead a couple of hours beforehand due to heavy rain. When it did go ahead Newcastle kicked off and inside the first seven minutes the Reds saw yellow twice. Two and a half minutes in and Steven Gerrard was booked for a challenge he was just too late on. A bit harsh early in the game perhaps. Five minutes later and an even harsher booking went to Salif Diao for what was really a nothing challenge. That card came back to haunt him later in the game as well.
The Reds conceded the only goal of the game after just thirteen minutes. John Arne Riise brought his man down just on the corner of the penalty area. Somehow Riise managed to escape a booking but the harsher punishment came from the free kick. Laurent Robert swung the free kick in. It struck Baros who had moved about three yards from his initial position.
In fairness that pretty much summed up the whole of the first half in terms of chances. The Reds had little commitment and only Steven Gerrard seemed to be clued up as to how to supply anything to the front line which was getting even further detached from the rest of the side.
What did happen in the half though saw Kirkland pounce well to stop Acuna making it two nil whilst he saw one shot from Shearer go just past his post five minutes before the end of the half. Chances for the Reds were few and far between throughout the game but in the first half alone it was limited to a Riise volley from a Cheyrou corner. The volley was blocked on its way to Given who had it covered and as it bobbled around the area no Red seemed eager enough to get it and Given collected it eventually. A good Gerrard cross cut out by Given just after the half hour sums the Reds attack up. The back line was deep and thus the gap between defence and attack was huge meaning the balls that were lumped forward were even more aimless than normal. That said lumping balls at Baros and Diouf is a waste of time anyway with neither being great in the air.
The Reds really should have drawn level three minutes into the second half. Unusual pressing of the goalie from the Reds forced Given to mishit the ball out for a corner. Hyypia won a header at the back post back into the centre of the area where Diao knocked it down. From just three yards out Baros failed to pounce on the loose ball which fell kindly to Given. Dermot Gallagher finally remembered he was allowed to book the Geordies as well, when he reluctantly booked Jenas for a cynical challenge from behind. A minute later and Diouf got himself booked. He wouldn't give up on a ball and forced a corner off Griffin but the ref gave a goal kick. In a show of petulance Diouf thrust the ball at the floor and was duly booked.
Neil Mellor came on for Milan Baros on fifty five minutes to try and give something different up front. The first action after this though was for Cheyrou to get a booking when he cynically pulled Bellamy back. Cheyrou was replaced a few minutes later by Smicer.
Mellor got hold of the ball after sixty two minutes and charged down the right wing. After outpacing his marker he put in an excellent cross which any striker would have loved. Sadly the Reds aren't used to crosses in the box and so never bothered to run that far up the pitch. It typified the Reds on the night in fairness. Lethargic and shown up by some young hunger from Mellor and the oppositions Kerr and Jenas.
On sixty five minutes the Reds were reduced to ten men when Salif Diao dived in recklessly from distance and caught his man. It was a definite booking and not far off a straight red but having already saw Yellow in the first minutes of the game he was off. The game was already hard enough as it was. That said the Reds nearly scored just a minute later when Neil Mellor worked hard to get n the end of a Gerrard free kick but his header was well saved at the post by Given.
Mellor again went close on seventy minutes. He was being pulled all over the place by his man and was even pulled down but managed to get up and still have a strike on goal which was deflected out for a corner. Hunger by the striker stuck out in the team on the night.
El Hadji Diouf was starting to lose his temper and was lucky not to connect with Jenas on seventy six minutes play. Connection would probably have broke the players leg. Diouf was wound up from his earlier card and the obvious winding up from Griffin. These things go n though and you have to learn to cope with these things. Houllier saw enough of Diouf to take him off before he was sent off and Vignal arrived on seventy eight minutes.
The Reds though failed to create anything else of note in the game whereas Newcastle created something in the three added minutes of time when Shearer saw his free kick saved by Kirkland at the second attempt.
Overall a sad and sorry side went down without as much of a whimper on the night. Gerrard looked on another planet in the midfield because he tried a few things. The gap between back and front is now becoming so big the team are getting binoculars when they go on the field. Yes the ref was poor but you have to live with it at the time. The pitch was poor but equal to both but Newcastle adapted far better to the conditions and showed a desire to win the game the Reds wouldn't understand.
MotM : Neil Mellor - played very little of the match yet showed passion and desire to get the Reds something from the game. A shame more don't follow suit.