Liverpool 3 - 1 Newcastle: Liverpool ignite after Steven Gerrard’s intervention

CRAIG Bellamy scored twice against his former club and captain Steven Gerrard came off the bench to add a third as Liverpool came from behind to beat Newcastle at Anfield.

The visitors went ahead through Daniel Agger’s 25th-minute own goal but Bellamy equalised soon after and then curled in a free-kick midway through the second half just after Gerrard had replaced Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam. Gerrard capped his second appearance after two months out with an ankle infection with the third as the Reds won only their fourth home match of the season.

Strikers Andy Carroll and Bellamy both started for Liverpool against their former club. Club-record signing Carroll kept his place from Boxing Day’s draw with Blackburn but Bellamy replaced the suspended Luis Suarez while Jay Spearing came in for Maxi Rodriguez, the goalscorer against Rovers. Newcastle made one change from the side which beat Bolton on Monday with 19-year-old midfielder Haris Vuckic making only his second Barclays Premier League start.

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It took until the 15th minute for Liverpool to create their first real chance but when former Magpies left-back Jose Enrique drilled a cross through the six-yard area Stewart Downing was moving away from goal rather than towards it. Adam fired a 35-yard shot over after Newcastle’s attempts to dribble the ball out of defence ran into trouble when referee Lee Probert got in the way while Downing drew Tim Krul into a save low at his left-hand post.

Newcastle took the lead in odd circumstances in the 25th minute. Vuckic was walking towards the bench having been hit in the face by Glen Johnson’s clearance but Newcastle played on and when Ryan Taylor swung in a cross from the left the ball just missed Yohan Cabaye only for Liverpool defender Daniel Agger to inadvertently divert it past Jose Reina under pressure from Demba Ba. However, within four minutes Liverpool were level through Bellamy. Cheik Tiote made a poor attempt at clearing Adam’s cut-back from the right of the penalty area and Bellamy drive through a crowd of players from 16 yards.

The home side immediately picked up the tempo and Downing’s volley was blocked by Jonas Gutierrez while Martin Skrtel flashed a header just wide of the far post from Bellamy’s corner.

On the stroke of half-time Spearing’s long-range effort was deflected behind by Tiote but Bellamy’s corner, in keeping with much of Liverpool’s delivery all evening, was poor.

Taylor was replaced by Davide Santon for the start of the second half before Cabaye was lucky to escape punishment after catching Spearing halfway up his shin with a late tackle. Gerrard replaced Adam just before the hour and the captain’s first involvement was to whip in a near-post cross which almost picked out Carroll.

When the England midfielder did find the unmarked striker in five yards of space in the penalty area the £35million signing’s first touch let him down badly.

Carroll played a decoy role in Liverpool’s second goal but the decisive move came from Danny Simpson. As Bellamy lined up a 67th-minute free-kick the Newcastle defender decided to back-track to the goalline, allowing Carroll to advance towards Krul and when the set-piece came in Simpson got in the way of his goalkeeper and the ball crept between the two of them. However, Newcastle would have equalised three minutes later when Ba clipped a narrow-angle shot over Reina only for Skrtel to clear just inches from the goalline. Despite Carroll’s best efforts he seemed destined not to score against his former side as after beating Mike Williamson to Gerrard’s cross he crashed a header against the crossbar from six yards.

Not to be outdone, Gerrard popped up with a trademark third goal in the 77th minute when he ran from deep to collect Henderson’s through-ball and side-footed an angled shot past Krul from the left of the penalty area. It clinched only a second win in six matches at home but eased the growing frustration at Anfield.

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Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Spearing, Adam, Downing, Carroll, Bellamy. Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Maxi, Kuyt, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly.

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Vuckic, Ba. Subs: Elliot, Santon, Ben Arfa, Perch, Best, Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi.