Liverpool (h) Premiership
Half time: Newcastle 0 Liverpool 0
70 mins A Laurent Robert free kick smashed home at the Leazes end, awarded after a foul on Shearer. 1-0
Full time: Newcastle 1 Liverpool 0
Graeme Souness said:
"It was a special goal that won it and we know Laurent is capable of that. He had a few more decent ones that if he had got on target the keeper would have had problems.
"Their keeper did well to get a finger tip on the goal because it was a special effort.
"Robert had a good game apart from the goal and Alan shearer was magnificent.
"We have a love-hate relationship with Laurent, sometimes I want to hug him and other times I want to bash him up.
"But he was out there chasing everything today and I think he even charged down a shot today."
Alan Shearer added:
"We've had a good time of late - we've worked really hard and I think we got what we deserved today.
"We played really well and a moment of magic from Robert has settled it for us.
"He can be a frustrating at times but he has got a great left foot on him - better than most - and when he whips them in like that then they are hard to stop."
Rafa Benitez commented:
We knew we had a lot of injury problems and we tried to reorganise the team, but we had a good first half, controlling the game and playing well between the lines.
"In the second half, they started pressing, but we tried to keep the ball and defend properly.
"In the end, through a free-kick we have conceded a goal, but there were not a lot of chances in the game for both teams.
"We knew Laurent Robert is dangerous from free-kicks, but we were not defending properly."
There was a strange feeling about this game as
we walked up to St. James'.
I quite fancied our chances of beating the Reds but I could also just as easily see our four-game winning streak come to an end as we suffered the backlash from Liverpool's defeat at Cardiff less than a week previous.
I think the strangeness was just the phenomenon of playing Liverpool at St. James' on a Saturday at 3.00pm without the intrusion of the Sky cameras. It doesn't happen often these days.
And not for the first time whoever picks the TV games was absolutely spot-on in not being wooed by the history of this fixture, or more accurately the reverse fixture. This was never going to be a 4-3 classic.
The conditions didn't help in that rain, sleet and the melting of the previous weeks snow had left the (newish) playing surface very heavy. It was also our fourth home game in under a fortnight and there aren't too many Premiership pitches that can cope with that schedule.
The main pre-match team news revolved around the visitor's goal-minder. Chris Kirkland had no chance of recovering form a long-term back injury and so Jerzy Dudek's failing of a late fitness test meant that 19-year-old keeper Scott Carson started his first Premiership match.
For us, Babayaro had been declared unfit days in advance and Aaron Hughes filled in at left-back and in midfield Faye and Bowyer provided the steel to complement Dyer and Robert's creativity with Jenas once again on the bench.
Patrick Kluivert apparently lost his "battle" against a groin strain but to me that suggests that he shouldn't have been fit enough for the bench. Whatever the truth, it was the ill-fitting Shearer and Ameobi partnership given the job of securing our fifth win in a row.
Heavy clouds from the off saw the game start floodlit and although the sun did poke through briefly it was the lead skies and wintry showers that provided the backdrop for a dour contest.
That's not to say it was a bad game, a lot of the football from both sides was tidy and keenly contested but goalmouth incidents and clear-cut chances were few and far between.
It was infuriating that an obviously nervous goalkeeper wasn't tested for the first 25 minutes. A couple of corners from Robert were too short and too long and free-kicks were squandered meaning that when Carr finally put over a decent ball, Shola's half decent but off-target header, was the nearest young Carson had got to making a save.
Shay Given was even less troubled as some
threatening crosses and corners from Gerrard weren't
It was a game for the strong in body and mind and although captain Shearer had very little chance to mark his 400th Premiership game with a goal he was a tower of strength up front. He won the all-important free-kick by simply standing his ground on the right edge of the box and when Al took the ball into the North-East corner near the end of the game, two Liverpool players had to virtually bind and gag our captain before they could get the ball off him.
I don't know whether it's old age or just that I've been ground down to acceptance but I think games like these are very watchable. As long as they have a decent amount of skill and endeavour I can live without wall-to-wall goalmouth action. That's one thing I'll say in favour of Sky - football watchers nowadays are educated into watching 90 minutes of football, whereas in my day we turned up at St. James' expecting it to be like watching ten minutes of highlights on Shoot! or Match of the Day.
For that reason, every half chance or sight of goal proved to be crucial and so when Laurent Robert lined up a thirty-five yarder in the second half it was a massive disappointment that it flew well wide of the goal. Again the keeper remained untested. It didn't appear that Laurent had donned his shooting boots.
But then minutes after Kluivert had come on to replace Ameobi, Shearer was grappled by Pellegrino and referee Howard Webb gave us a free-kick in almost exactly the same spot that Robert had fired home the winner against these lot in January 2003.
As he lined up to take the kick, there was tangible pressure on the Frenchman from the crowd and his team-mates to bend over a cross and to be honest, after three wild attempts at goal it was the sensible thing to do.
Thankfully, on this occasion, Robert didn't let discretion be the better part of valour and selfishly had another pop at goal. It was a perfect strike that found the very top of the far corner and bulged the side-netting.
Away danced our re-invented saviour doing some sort of puppet-on-a-string dance that was as joyous as it was baffling and if the red contingent in the crowd could have seen it from their lofty perch, it would probably have irritated them as much as Mourinho's shushing.
A single strike like that in a gritty encounter is a wonderful thing. The seventh goal in a 4-3 thriller is possibly better but not by much but with 20 minutes of this game left, you never quite knew if it was going to be enough.
Shearer and Kluivert linked up more times in one quarter of the game than Al and Ameobi had for the previous three-quarters and one combination almost provided the winner. Shearer's clever header sent Kulivert on a diagonal run and the Dutchman did well to be first to the ball and then cut inside Carragher. Speed of thought and foot put Paddy through on goal but with just Carson to beat he dragged the ball wide.
And that seemed to be a hugely costly miss when Gerrard burst into our box in injury time. From my Leazes seat, he seemed a certain scorer and when the ball flew past the post it was almost like seeing a late penalty go wide.
Unlike us though, they had missed their one chance meaning that the points were ours and for once, the smiles belonged to the former Liverpool trio of Souness, McDermott and Saunders.