Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 0

BATTLE ... Jack Colback and Raheem Sterling.
BATTLE ... Jack Colback and Raheem Sterling.

AT least the team – bar Moussa Sissoko – could leave pitch at Anfield with heads held high.

The 10 Newcastle United players left on the pitch at the final whistle were applauded by club’s travelling fans.

There was a measure of pride in defeat for Newcastle United, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool last night, but a defeat is a defeat, and there have been too many of them this season.

That couldn’t be said at the Stadium of Light eight days earlier.

There was a measure of pride in defeat for Newcastle United, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool last night, but a defeat is a defeat, and there have been too many of them this season.

This was the club’s fifth successive loss, and just where is the next win going to come from?

There is building work going on all around Anfield.

The foundations have long been in place, and steel girders are rising behind the soon-to-be-expanded Centenary Stand.

There’s also building work to be done back on Tyneside.

The squad needs to be rebuilt.

And just as importantly trust needs to be rebuilt with fans, many of whom are considering boycotting Sunday’s home game against Tottenham Hotspur, such is their disillusionment and disenchantment at the club’s plight.

Head coach John Carver – who has arguably had the weakest hand in the Premier League in recent weeks – didn’t have much of a pack to shuffle, but shuffle it he did.

And Mehdi Abeid, Vurnon Anita and Gabriel Obertan came into his starting XI at the expense of Jonas Gutierrez, Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi.

Gutierrez’s omission was surprising given that he was one of the few players to have emerged from the derby with any credit.

There was an immaculately-observed minute’s silence in memory of the 96 who died in the Hillsborough disaster almost 26 years ago before kick-off at Anfield, where United haven’t won a league game in 21 years.

Liverpool claimed another win, but the victory wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline suggested.

The changes made by Carver saw Jack Colback, previously a makeshift left-back, restored to midfield. Anita was fielded at full-back.

Carver had bemoaned the lack of energy and enthusiasm at the Stadium of Light, and his team, again captained by Sissoko, had a bit more life about it in the opening minutes.

That was until the intervention of Raheem Sterling.

Jordan Henderson – who left Sunderland in the days when Newcastle won derby games – found Sterling just inside the box.

Sterling skipped past Ryan Taylor and evaded a weak challenge from Obertan before curling the ball past Tim Krul with his right foot.

The goal led to vocal protests against United owner Mike Ashley – who was not at Anfield – from the club’s 800-strong support tucked into one corner of the Anfield Road End.

Not for the first time season season, they chanted “we’re ****, and we’re sick of it”.

It was all Liverpool until United broke upfield in the 28th minute.

Unfortunately, Abeid shot into the arms of Simon Mignolet after Obertan found him with a cross from the right.

Krul had a bit more work to do at the other end when Lucas Leiva met a Henderson free-kick with his head, but the goalkeeper somehow kept United in the game.

And Newcastle were inexplicably not awarded a penalty 38th minute when Dejan Lovren brought forward Ayoze Perez down in the box with a badly-timed tackle. It couldn’t have been any more blatant, yet referee Lee Mason was unmoved.

Perez tested Mignolet with a header before the break, and Abeid put another chance over the bar.

United were in the ascendancy, and there was an edginess around Anfield in the minutes before the break given Liverpool’s apparent retreat.

Brendan Rodgers’ side retreated further in the second half, though Sterling couldn’t take advantage of a miskick from Taylor in the 56th minute, the forward shooting wide of goal from eight yards.

Gutierrez – who replaced Obertan in the 67th minute – was applauded on to the pitch by both sets of fans.

But within a minute, Newcastle were two goals down.

A corner was only half-cleared by United, and Emre Can hooked it back for Joe Allen, who poked it past Krul.

Soon came a moment of madness from Sissoko, who had been booked minutes earlier for dissent.

The midfielder – who had gone missing in the Wear-Tyne derby – caught Lucas’s shin with a crude challenge, and was deservedly shown a second yellow card.

Sissoko, arguably the best player in the first few months of the campaign, will miss Sunday’s home game against Tottenham, but he won’t be missed by many fans.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 6; R Taylor 6, Janmaat 6, Williamson 5, Anita 6; Colback 7, Abeid 6 (Armstrong, 75, 6); Obertan 6 (Gutierrez, 67, 6), Sissoko 4, Cabella 6; PEREZ 7 (Gouffran, 87). Subs not used: Elliot, Sterry, Ameobi, Riviere.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet; Johnson, Can, Lovren, Moreno; Lucas; Allen, Henderson; Ibe (Borini, 58), Coutinho, Sterling (Lambert, 89). Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Brannagan, Markovic.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Ayoze Perez. Liverpool couldn’t handle him in and around the box.

HIGHLIGHT: The energy and enthusiasm of United after going a goal down. This time, they had a go.

LOWLIGHT: Moussa Sissoko’s needless – and reckless – challenge on Lucas Leiva. He let his team down – again.

Goals: Sterling 8, Allen 70

Bookings: Johnson 77, Sissoko 78, 83

Sent off: Sissoko 83

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Attendance: 44,611