Liverpool keep top four spot in sights

Liverpool 3 Newcastle 1

The Geordies lost Craig Bellamy, injured in the warm-up, and had Lee Bowyer sent off for a second yellow card with eight minutes left. With some of their players linked with another hotel incident in the morning papers, the day just got worse for their manager Graham Souness who confirmed he has received a letter of complaint from the Ritz Hotel in London about the behaviour of some of his players.

The Mayfair hotel was allegedly the venue for a group of Newcastle players to stage a pre-Christmas party. Their behaviour resulted in hotel staff writing to the Newcastle club to complain.

Souness, after his side's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, said: "I received that letter, and I am not going to tell anyone what was in it. They are boys, it was their day off and I am not going to comment on it any further."

It is believed the incident in question took place three weeks ago.

Asked whether the behaviour had just been "over boisterous", Souness agreed, and said: "Good, they are boys."

Souness was angry about the performance of his side at Anfield, saying: "We have had words, it wasn't a shouting match and was civilised. Probably a bit too civilised for my liking."

He added: "We made a decent start and took the lead. They cancelled that out with an own goal and a goal that stemmed from a ball straight down the middle of our side.

"That happened again in the second half and you do not often see goals like that scored in the Premiership, straight passes being turned into goals.

"At 3-1 we had a chance to get back into the game when Jermaine Jenas missed a good chance, and then came Lee Bowyer's sending-off. I can't defend that, it was an obvious red card and he let down his team-mates."

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez praised his side's character for the way they hit back after going a goal down to Newcastle in what was eventually an impressive victory for the Anfield men.

Patrick Kluivert put Newcastle ahead early on, but a Titus Bramble own goal, Neil Mellor's fifth strike of the season and a cracker from Milan Baros secured the points for Liverpool while the Geordies' misery was compounded by having Bowyer sent off near the end.

Benitez, who saw his side concede an injury-time goal last week to rob them of victory over Portsmouth, said: "That was a bad blow for us, and when we went behind early on in this game we needed to show character to fight back.

"We created chances and produced a fine performance that will be good for our confidence as we approach a very busy holiday programme.

"I was pleased too with Harry Kewell, he has been playing well for the last few games now.

"I have continued to show confidence in him and he is now playing much better for us."

Benitez added: "Right through the game we showed the right mentality.

"We conceded early on, but counter-attacked and took the game to them.

"By the end of the match we were making lots of chances and it could have been a bigger margin of victory for us even though they were down to 10 men."

LIVERPOOL: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Luis Garcia (Nunez 73), Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Traore 85), Baros, Mellor (Sinama Pongolle 75).

NEWCASTLE: Given, Andrew O'Brien, Elliott, Bramble, Bernard, Bowyer, Dyer (Ambrose 80), Jenas, Milner (N'Zogbia 72), Kluivert (Robert 58), Ameobi.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

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