By the time Moussa Sissoko was given his marching orders for a shocking tackle on Lucas late in the second half, Newcastle United were in a familiar predicament at Anfield — losing and down to ten men.
Raheem Sterling got the party started in the first half when his mazy run was capped off with a precise to put Liverpool in front within the first ten minutes, but what could have very well been a first half rout ended with the visitors in the drivers seat and Dejan Lovren lucky to have not given away a clear penalty. John Carver’s side started the second half the same way they ended the first, but Joe Allen was on hand to bag a rare goal with a poachers finish after some horrible defending from the Magpies gifted the Welshman the ball.
It’s easy to ignore how we did it now that it’s done, but that was more than a bit too close for comfort. A trip to Wembley awaits the Travelling Kop as Liverpool navigate the FA Cup quarter-finals the second time around to put what’s been a wholly forgettable week for the Anfield outfit to bed.
Still looking punch drunk from the battering they got at the hands of Arsenal at the weekend, the visitors wobbled on more than one occasion as a well organized and highly motivated Blackburn Rovers did their damnedest to punish the Premier League side for giving them a second crack at a trip to the Capital. It was all bobs and jabs from Brendan Rodgers side as their hosts looked for the kill, but as concentration faded and legs tired the Reds found their opening with Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson turning a failed corner routine into the winner with the Brazilian showing once again why he’s the man for the big occasion.
Three goals in eight first half minutes and one in injury time for Arsenal saw Liverpool not only throw away their impressive run of seven straight clean-sheets away from home, but their chances of qualifying for next seasons Champions League along with it.
The two sides traded jabs during the opening exchanges, but when the Reds gave Hector Bellerin all the time he’d like as the Spaniard skipped into the box, his curling effort opened the scoring with an unsettling amount of ease. An inch perfect free-kick from Mesut Ozil doubled up before Alexis Sanchez sent them into the half with a three goal lead. Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson pulled one back from the spot after Bellerin tripped up Raheem Sterling, but when Emre Can was dismissed following his second yellow card, it was all too easy for Olivier Giroud to finish a flowing move to cap this one off in injury time.
Manchester United not only opened a five point lead over Liverpool in the race for Champions League football after running out 2-1 winners yesterday at Anfield, but they also brought the Reds run of 13-matches without a loss to a crashing halt. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was completely avoidable.
Juan Mata opened the scoring as Brendan Rodgers side, reminiscent of their win over Swansea City earlier in the week, got off to a slow start with their first half performance far below par. Steven Gerrard, making what will very likely be his last appearance against the Red Devils, replaced the injured Adam Lallana at the break only to be sent off less than 40-seconds after the re-start for an ugly, wholly unnecessary stamp on Ander Herrera as the two clashed in the middle of the park following a poor challenge from the Spaniard.
At this stage of the game, no one cares how you do it as long as it gets done. It was ugly at times, but a win earlier tonight saw Liverpool not only keep pace with fourth placed Manchester United, but record their fifth win in as many outings to make sure their momentum remained steady ahead of this weekend’s showdown.
To be fair though, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that the outcome and not the performance will be repeated come Sunday with Swansea City looking the more likely to take the points — and just about everything else — for large swathes of the match. Jordan Henderson’s deflected winner, his third in as many Premier League games, may have kept their pony in the top four race, but their lack of composure in the first half had the Anfield outfit looking fit for the glue factory rather than the winners circle.