Plenty fight as Reds battle to the bitter end

Liverpool 2 Newcastle 1

Plenty  fight   as Reds   battle  to  the  bitter end

Right from the start of Liverpool’s final game there was the feeling around the old ground that the damage had been done in losing to Chelsea and then, disastrously, letting slip a three-goal lead to draw at Crystal Palace last Monday night.

That meant Manchester City needed just a draw against West Ham to take the title and prevent Liverpool reclaiming the crown they last held 24 years ago.

They went one better and won but Liverpool refused to hand the title over on a plate as they came from behind to score second-half goals through Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge and finally kill off a Newcastle side that refused to play the role of fall guy until the late dismissals of Shola Ameobi and Paul Dummett saw them finish the game with nine men.

“Congratulations to Manchester City. It’s the most competitive league in football and they are the champions so congratulations to them,” said a philosophical Rodgers.

“But my over-riding feeling is one of sheer pride in our players. We finished the season winning 12 out of 14 games, drawing one and losing one, which shows an incredible level of quality and consistency over that period.

“We would have preferred to have finished top but to finish just behind them [City] is a mark of the progress we have made this season.

“I’m not sure a group as young as this has finished in the Champions League places, never mind second place. It’s been a wonderful campaign and the players will continue to grow and develop.”

Those players have brushed aside most of their opponents on Merseyside this season but with the belief they could actually win the league fading away, Liverpool made a surprisingly sluggish start.

Yet if they could have hand-picked the opposition they needed to beat or at least make City sweat over it would probably have been Newcastle, given the fact the Tynesiders haven’t won at Anfield in 20 years.

They didn’t exactly arrive in the best of shape either, with their win over relegated Cardiff a week earlier stopping a run of six straight defeats which have piled the pressure on manager Alan Pardew, who is due to discuss his future with club owner Mike Ashley.

But Newcastle refused to stick to the script that suggested they would just lie down and make only the result at the Etihad Stadium the one in doubt.

Right from the off they made life awkward for a jaded-looking Liverpool side and deserved their opening goal, sliced into his own net by Martin Skrtel from a cross from Yoan Gouffran.

Gouffran could have killed the atmosphere further with two more chances, both created by Ameobi, but each time he lacked the composure to beat goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. And it was not until the second half, with City already winning, that Liverpool raised themselves to finish on a high.

“I said at half-time we needed to put that 45 minutes behind us. I said we can’t finish the season like this. It has been a remarkable season and it would have been sad for us and the supporters to go out with a whimper,” added Rodgers.

“At half-time we were 1-0 down so there was no point in worrying about what Manchester City were doing. The players showed great character to get on the front foot and we ended up with a victory which gives us 16 wins out of 19 at home, which is fantastic for a group of players who just two years ago struggled to get home wins.

“We just finished short but we will be back again.”

Luis Suarez was busting a gut to get the 32nd league goal, which would have taken him past the Premier League’s 38-game season record held by Cristiano Ronaldo and former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer.

But it was captain Steven Gerrard who again came good, delivering two superb free-kicks in the space of as many minutes which allowed Agger to volley in and equalise then Sturridge to side-foot home his 25th goal of a memorable season which will continue with a World Cup call-up tomorrow.

Ameobi’s continued protests at the award of the second free-kick earned him two yellow cards within a matter of seconds. And when Dummett was then shown a red card for a foul on Suarez, Liverpool were able to lap up the appreciation of Anfield in an untroubled closing few minutes of a season which marked their return as a force in English football.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 7; Johnson 6, Skrtel 6, Agger 7, Flanagan 6 (Cissokho 46); Gerrard 7, Henderson 7, Allen 5 (Coutinho 59, 6); Sterling 6, Sturridge 6 (Lucas 80), Suarez 7.

NEWCASTLE (5-4-1): Krul 7; Debuchy 6, Taylor 6 (De Jong 72), Williamson 5, Coloccini 6, Haidara 6; Sissoko 6, Tiote 5 (Dummett 81), Anita 6, Gouffran 7 (Sammy Ameobi 78); Shola Ameobi 7.Referee: Phil Dowd.

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