Perhaps it was befitting on the day which saw Steven Gerrard honoured for making his 600th Liverpool appearance, Luis Suárez further marked the changing of the guard by scoring a stunning equaliser as he continues to relish his role as the Reds’ inspiration. It was the former Ajax man – the only fit striker at Rodgers’ disposal – who came closest for the home side in the first half. The Uruguay international burst into the box before being felled by Fabricio Coloccini but referee Anthony Taylor waved play-on. The 24-year-old then came close through a free-kick which grazed the side netting. Suárez was getting closer and the Liverpool striker finally netted with a world-class strike in the 67th minute. José Enrique’s 70-yard pass was deftly controlled by Liverpool’s talisman on his shoulder before he took the ball around Tim Krul and slotted home. Suárez’s statistics highlight his importance to the side, receiving 56 passes and attempting to beat an opponent on 18 occasions. Perhaps frustrated by the demanding task of marking the South American, Coloccini was dismissed for a nasty challenge on Suárez in the 84th minute.
Liverpool made a bright start to the Anfield clash and the hosts had 60 per cent of possession in the first half but, as has been the reoccurring theme throughout the season, were unable to convert their dominance into goals. The Magpies soon established a foothold in the match and presented a threat going forward through Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé. With the atmosphere subdued as Rodgers’ men continued to struggle to breakdown a well-drilled Newcastle defence, the Magpies took the lead in the 43rd minute. Hatem Ben Arfa slalomed down the right wing and managed to skip past both Enrique and Raheem Sterling before picking out Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman, unmarked on the edge of Brad Jones’ area, controlled Ben Arfa’s cross and unleashed a sublime volley into the roof of the net. It was the 26-year-old’s sixth goal since moving to St James’ Park from Lille in 2011.
When Kenny Dalglish picked up Enrique for a cut-price £7m in the summer of 2011, it was generally lauded as a bargain for a manager who had established a reputation for overpaying on new recruits. The Spanish defender made a solid start to life on Merseyside and he was named man of the match for an eye-catching display when Liverpool were 2-0 winners at Arsenal. However, the former Magpies left-back has struggled to match those early heights and is yet to make a telling impact under Rodgers, albeit hampered by injuries. The Liverpool manager appears to prefer Andre Wisdom and Glen Johnson as his two full-backs, and with the latter unavailable, Enrique was handed just his third start in the Premier League this season. Although he created Suárez’s equaliser, the former Villarreal man was disappointing. He gave away possession on 17 occasions while his five attempted crosses failed to find a team-mate. His defending was poor too, and he was partly culpable for Newcastle’s opener as he failed to prevent Ben Arfa from crossing the ball. With Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson already struggling under new management, Enrqiue is another disappointing Dalglish signing who could be offloaded in the near future.
With the Premier League more testing than ever, Gerrard was rightly honoured for racking up an impressive 600 appearances for his boyhood club. The Liverpool captain has scored seven times against the Magpies since making his debut in 1998, but the 32-year-old’s role is continuing to evolve in the current line-up. Still acting as the team’s architect, Gerrard sat in a deeper role against Newcastle and let Suso and Sterling create space with their cunning runs, while the more mobile Nuri Sahin looked to time his runs into the box in support of Suárez. Gerrard’s physical stature may be diminishing, but he still commands the respect of both his team-mates and opponents, highlighted by Cabaye, who claimed ahead of the game that stopping the England skipper would bring Liverpool to a shuddering halt. Gerrard is still adjusting to his new position and his performances this season have been below-par, and the next test for the midfielder will be embracing a more tempered role in Rodgers’ side. If he can, Jamie Carragher’s total of 711 appearances could well be beaten. Another Premier League legend, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, would be an ideal template for Gerrard to base his new identity on.
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