Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 1: Mark Douglas' match analysis

Alan Pardew will beg for his job, but that is just the first battle he will have to win after his side slumped to defeat at Anfield

Daniel Agger of Liverpool shoots past Tim Krul of Newcastle United
Daniel Agger of Liverpool shoots past Tim Krul of Newcastle United

The noise had barely subsided from the Kop when Brendan Rodgers pulled up a chair in a cramped back room at Anfield and began to talk about a transformative season for his club.

Liverpool came up short in the title knockings but the mood seems to have shifted decisively at Anfield.

Through the words and deeds of the manager, board and players over the last nine months they have moved beyond the rancour and recriminations of the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era and there is an invigorating optimism about the place.

His critics call Rodgers ‘Brent-on’ for perceived similarities to Ricky Gervais’ hideous middle-management caricature David Brent and the Liverpool manager’s cocksure outlook is not to everyone’s taste.

 

However, there was something he said when asked to surmise a season which had ended with no tangible reward other than a golden ticket to the Champions League which struck exactly the right note.

He said: “We made them dream and that is our job.”

It is a message we can only hope someone at Newcastle United is receptive to in the coming months.

After a bruising, confrontational campaign we are left to reflect hope has long since left the building at St James’ Park – replaced, in part, by a rebellion which continues to fizz around this club’s die-hard supporters.

Newcastle finished the 2011/12 season in Merseyside too, ending with a defeat at Everton whch killed faint hopes of the Champions League but did not prevent them from finishing above both Liverpool and Everton.

However, this is about more than just league places and it is Newcastle’s descent into depressed expectations and deep mistrust which has been so damaging this season.

We don’t dream any more, we just doubt.

It cannot be allowed to go on. The club have become toxic in the past two months and it is fortunate for Newcastle the season has now concluded because it was beginning to cause serious damage – on and off the pitch.

On it, Newcastle slipped to their sixth defeat in seven at Anfield.

They played well enough in the first half to collect positives from the day but this was still another loss and it cost the club the best part of £1million as Stoke usurped them in tenth.

It also hit Alan Pardew (pictured right), the players and the staff at the club in the pocket too.

Much has been made of the bonus which will be added to May pay packets but it is an incremental reward and every position above tenth carried further financial reward. They can forget that now. It says something that some supporters might not be too bothered about losing, about slipping into tenth and not papering over some of the cracks which have formed.

A sizeable schism has opened up between fans and club and Pardew will head into his end of season ‘wrap-up’ with Mike Ashley knowing he will have to make a case not only to keep his job but to be allowed to do it more effectively – if he does get a stay of execution.

Rodgers went on to offer Pardew his whole-hearted backing to continue into next season and seemed to deliver the sort of message his friend can’t or won’t communicate when he effectively said the Newcastle boss has been hung out to dry by his board.

Even if he survives, there is a monumental job to be done from here.

United will spend and probably be among the biggest recruiters outside of the top four – that is certainly the mood music from the Magpies’ board room.

The challenge is bigger than that, though. They need to reconnect with supporters and to rediscover what Rodgers has delivered to the Reds fans – hope, optimism and a sense anything might just be possible.

Given managing-director Lee Charnley’s stated aim is to deliver “the best pound for pound” Newcastle he can, fans might be waiting a while longer for a Newcastle version of Rodgers’ passion play.

Yesterday the players performed more than admirably for 45 minutes.

They were set up intelligently – albeit quite defensively – and they showed enough verve and desire to pop Liverpool’s party balloons.

They deserved their opener – a first away goal since March 1 – and defended stoutly.

Massadio Haidara and Vurnon Anita were good, Shola Ameobi was outstanding.

Yet, that tells only half the story. United wore a grey shirt but this has been a black and white season.

Yesterday’s game at Anfield provided a neat summary of their season: first half good, second half bad to the point of shambolic.

To end with nine men – however poorly Phil Dowd officiated the second half – was pretty typical of a few months when ill-discipline has cost United.

Neither looked a particularly good decision from Dowd, who sent off Paul Dummett within a few minutes of the player coming on.

By then United were behind. Liverpool won a dodgy free-kick which Daniel Agger converted superbly. A second arrived thanks to Daniel Sturridge and Ameobi was sent off for arguing the point.

It was a sad end to a long era of service to the cause and another bitter-sweet moment on a day of them.

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