The Reds returned to league action with a more than convincing two nil win over Newcastle United. This was a game that more than a few of us outside partially feared due to the comeback of Michael Owen but the boys in Red ignored him ad got on with their jobs. This could easily have finished five nil but Shay Given was his usual quality self and kept the scoreline down. The away side were poor and gave no glimpse really that they could do better than nil.
Before the game and players came out the two lineups were read out with the visitor's as usual named first. As the Newcastle 10 was read out there was a mix of cheer and boo's went up for Owen. That reflects what people thought outside before the ground really. It's easy to focus on the player and the chants of Where were you in Istanbul and You should have signed for a big club but the club as a whole has moved on. Yes there are many who think we still need him around but for now he belongs to Newcastle.
The two teams came out as You'll Never Walk Alone was still blasting around the stands and after their usual lineup for the camera's the Reds elected to defend the Kop end in the first half. The Reds started well and within three minutes Kewell had a chance but leant back as he hit his shot which sailed high over the bar.
Kewell went even closer though on five minutes and but for a superb save from Given it would have been 1-0. Kewell hit a volley from three yards only to see the keeper's arm claw it away. The Reds were by far the better side and were in control of the ball. Newcastle were simply left chasing shadows at times. The opening goal came on fourteen minutes from skipper Steven Gerrard. A neat passing build up finished with Crouch laying the ball down for Gerrard who burst into the area and blasted a shot past Given.
The next Newcastle had to offer in the first half was a header from Luque that Reina turned over the bar for a corner. At the other end though the Newcastle defence was being dragged all over the place. Garcia and Kewell were offering excellent width to our game. The goal though just would come to extend the lead.
And how we all love irony. Steven Taylor was forced off due to injury on twenty eight minutes. His replacement Titus Bramble who entered the field to huge cheers from the crowd. Yes those cheers were from Reds and not the Magpies actually and the defender must have wished he'd stayed at home sick. He later suffered hilarious of chants of Bramble for England and cheers when he managed to throw in a defence saving tackle.
Gerrard went close on the half hour with a great free kick as the Reds continued to press forward. Hyypia then went close five minutes before the break but as ever Given was there to save the day. You did just want that second goal before half time to ease yourself on a bit more though and it duly arrived too. Morientes did well on the edge of the box to hold up the ball and poke it wide for Kewell. He put in a great cross which three Reds went for. Crouch jumped highest and headed the ball home off the post. It only just crossed the line but it was a Crouch goal all the same even though post game reports have given it as an own goal.
On the stroke of half time it could and should have been three nil but after Crouch brought the down so well he laid it across to Garcia who somehow blazed it from three yards out. Half time came though and you wondered how you weren't three or four up already. You wanted another really just in case they got one back, however unlikely that looked.
Shay Given raced to the Kop at the start of the half and as ever returned the applause offered to him from the home faithful. There was hen a few chants on the Kop of Owen to which the player waved back.
Solano arrived as a second half replacement for N'Zogbia and it was Solano who was involved just six minutes in to the half. A Reds corner from the centenary side was floated in from Gerrard ad Morientes met it well. His header was destined for the net but Solano blocked the chance with his hand. Penalty and Red card to follow? Nope play on as the ref obviously looked the other way.
The second half though in truth was poor. The Reds controlled the play and then on sixty six minutes it was pretty much game over as Lee Bowyer was sent off. Alonso and Faye both tackled for a loose ball in the middle of the Newcastle half to which a whistle went in favour of the Reds. Just as the whistle was blowing though Bowyer flew in studs showing and took Alonso out. Crouch raced in and pushed Bowyer over and the usual handbags ensued. Bowyer was shown Red and despite his protests had to leave the field. A bad tackle I must say but it surprised me at the instant Red in a way. At that point I expected Crouch to walk as well but he got away with a yellow card. Terry Mac on the sidelines sarcastically applauded Mark Halsey for the decision.
With ten men Newcastle did seem to play a little better in a way but they never turned that to look like scoring. With Pongolle and Cisse on for Kewell and Crouch now the Reds wanted to score more. Once the Reds took the ball down and played football again they had the Geordies all over the place and we should have scored more although at times the players had half an eye on the next few games following in quick succession and eased down a gear or two.
As the ninety minutes were up the Reds had won comfortably and remain in third place as the midway point of the season arrives. This turned out far easier than many had feared and thoughts turned straight across the park for the next game in just two days time.
MotM : Steven Gerrard - scored one and had a great all round game. That said all Reds on the pitch gave their all in this and the award could easily have gone to someone like Kewell who is slowly looking like he's enjoying his game again.