I think I wrote at some point last week that there was no where to go but up. Well I guess I will be eating those words. This was another lethargic unmotivated display by a lackluster and very poor team. I am very glad that Kenny finally switched to what appeared to be a 4-3-3. For the first 20 minutes it looked as if it might actually work, but then the wheels fell off the wagon. It did seem to get the best out of Andy Carroll, albeit temporarily. As crappy as Liverpool played, they really were still in the game until the sending off.
I have no idea where to go from here. Pepe's red was foolish and deserved, no matter how soft the headbutt was. Lady luck was not with the Reds and things could have been quite different with a different referee and assistants. It would be unfair to blame the entirety of the debacle on them, but they surely shoulder some blame for a few missed calls, even though they were difficult to see. The handball was shielded by a mass of bodies and Cisse's second was a bit of a fluke as it somehow appeared to squirt through 4 people without being touched before he collected it and smashed it home. More importantly though, the refereeing was inconsistent at best. That is inexcusable. After Pepe's red, Suarez was hauled down from behind by Gutierrez. I have no idea how that wasn't a yellow based on what Atkinson had been dishing cards out for. Then, Perch got caught in possession by Suarez and just reached out and grabbed him. Foul given, but no yellow. It was a completely "professional" foul that should have certainly seen him collecting yellow number two and walking. Again this would not have changed the outcome, but is something that drives me up the wall, even when it isn't Liverpool. If you are going to be crappy, do it both ways.
Some more rantings, then ratings after the jump:
As for the tactics, they worked for a while, then it seemed like Liverpool lost control of the midfield. Liverpool dominated the first 20 minutes, but the Cisse goal really took the wind out of their sails. After that, it was just a matter of chasing the game. There were a few chances sprinkled in there, but overall it was poor collective effort. This is three games in a row now. What is going on? Is Kenny losing his ability to motivate? Have the team just given up? Or is it that overall Liverpool are an incredibly average squad who overachieved earlier in the season?
Enough rantings, here are the ratings as I saw them:
Reina - 5 - Very foolish to pick up the red card. I completely understand his frustration, but he now may have cost his team more by being unavailable for the FA Cup semi-final. There was nothing at all he could do for either goal. He was once again left stranded. Other than picking the ball out of his net and being sent off, it was a quiet afternoon for him. Newcastle only had 3 shots on target, two of them goals. Hey, Pepe, if you are going to headbutt someone, at least actually get some satisfaction out of it by at least causing Perch some pain. Ask for some lessons from Zidane.
Enrique - 5 - Well he got a lot of stick and had a difficult time with Ben Arfa. He did take the gloves for Reina and had one nice punch in there. On the whole though he didn't get forward often and when he did he usually lost the ball. Not a good outing.
Skrtel - 5 - Lost Cisse for the opener. Probably could have done better for the second as well.
Carragher - 5 - He just looks like a fish out of water. I never thought the game would pass him so quickly, but he has fallen off the cliff. I would rather see Coates in there messing up and learning than Carra just messing up. I still love the guy, but he is a liability.
Flanagan - 5 - Also given a rough time all game long. He did venture a bit more forward with some success, but these runs also left the defense exposed on a number of occasions. He also whiffed on the Newcastle's second.
Gerrard - 5 - I have no idea what Kenny was thinking. Sure a few years ago under Rafa this was Gerrard's most productive position, but that wasn't in a 4-3-3. He was desperately needed to get a hold of the midfield, but it didn't happen. His touch was poor, his passes were overhit a number of times as were some crosses. A very uncharacteristic game.
Spearing - 7 - I thought he was one of the better players on the day. He did struggle to contain Ben Arfa at times, but overall his work at shielding the defense meant only 3 shots on goal for Newcastle. He also played a few nice passes which gives hope for the future that the distribution part of his game might actually improve.
Jonjo - 4 - He was just poor. He always is. He is like a manic rat looking for cheese. His yellow card was completely unnecessary. He was wasteful in possession. It just didn't work.
Bellamy - 5 - Really, did he play today? I don't remember him at all. He was anonymous. He did little with what possession he could get. I realize it was his first game back in a while, but this should have been good hunting for him. He even appeared to give up on one ball prematurely when it was slightly overhit, allowing it to run for a goal kick.
Suarez - 6 - Well he tried. There wasn't a whole lot he could do as every cross and pass went whizzing by. He was one of the few still hustling towards the end. Overall though, being pushed wide didn't seem work out as hoped.
Carroll - 5 - Well the first 20 minutes were fantastic. I actually thought he might come good, but then he swan dived to the turf and it all went south. He got a lot of stick from the Geordies, but in reality they should be loving him. He sacrificed himself so they could buy a bunch of players with the 35m Liverpool handed over. It's the only reason Newcastle are where they are right now. Good business. I hated Kenny's decision to sub him. Why would you put the kid, who is fragile mentally, through the torment of being subbed at St. James' Park and being booed, then sarcastically cheered by over 50,000 people? Kenny, you knew it was going to happen. Why would you do it? I fear we may have lost him mentally for at least the rest of the year after this outing.
Kuyt - NA - The game was gone by the time he came on.
Downing - NA - Should have started instead of Shelvey.
Henderson - NA - Not enough time to make an impact, not that he would have either way.