Liverpool dismantled a poor Newcastle United side 2-0 in the Monday Night Football match at Anfield, with the gap between the sides so vast it was a surprise the scoreline wasn’t more one-sided.
The Reds roared out of the blocks, as they did so many times last season, blowing teams away before the opposition could gain a foothold in the match.
This wasn’t to be the case tonight though; Brendan Rodgers’ men did get an early goal, but weren’t able to capitalise on a host of opportunities afterwards.
The opening strike came from Raheem Sterling, who has come under considerable criticism in recent weeks for both his reluctance to commit his future to Anfield and this week for leaked photos in which he appeared to be smoking a shisha pipe.
After Jordan Henderson pinged a crossfield ball to Sterling on the left side of the box, the England forward controlled it beautifully, with neat footwork allowing him to avoid the half-hearted challenges from Newcastle’s Ryan Taylor and Gabriel Obertan.
It will do some good to restoring his reputation amongst the Anfield faithful, but there are bridges still to be built.
The star of the show was Philippe Coutinho, who may well have taken Sterling’s mantle as current darling of the Kop.
The Brazilian offers some of the most skilful play in the Premier League and a glorious backheel in the box almost set up Liverpool’s next chance.
Newcastle were seriously under the cosh, but Brendan Rodgers had switched Liverpool to a back four for this game, having deployed a back three for the bulk of the season, and gaps did start to open for the Magpies to break into.
Having failed to kill off the game, Liverpool were almost victims of their own profligacy. Reds defender Dejan Lovren totally took out Ayoze Perez with an absurdly naive challenge, but Newcastle’s just penalty claims were waved away.
Raheem Sterling went from hero to villain with this shocking miss from six yards out:
Despite a more encouraging start to the second half from Newcastle, the game was killed off with twenty minutes remaining.
Joe Allen, likely the shortest player on the pitch, was allowed two attempts to score from Emre Can’s cross, and made no mistake upon being given a second chance. John Carver will be understandably fuming at the space the Welshman was allowed after his team failed to clear a corner.
Late on, Moussa Sissoko was lucky to only receive a second yellow for a horrific challenge on Lucas Leiva.
Having earned an initial booking for preventing Glen Johnson for taking a throw-in, the Newcastle midfielder could easily have seen a straight red for the tackle, which was studs up on the Brazilian’s shin.