Super Raheem Sterling on a high for Liverpool

Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0: If it’s legal highs Raheem Sterling is searching for, then he is better off sticking to the intoxicating feeling he gives Liverpool fans at Anfield on a weekly basis.

During last night’s game at Anfield, a video published online by an English newspaper showed Sterling inhaling the legal high nitrous oxide — known more commonly as laughing gas.

A Liverpool spokesperson said the club “are aware of the story” and “intend to speak to the player. Any subsequent action will be taken internally”. No joking matter, clearly.

The incident further intensified the scrutiny on Sterling, who was pictured at the weekend smoking from a shisha pipe.

He also recently revealed in an interview that he turned down a £100,000-a-week contract at Anfield which saw him light-heartedly heckled at Liverpool’s kit launch last Friday.

On the pitch last night, Sterling was his ebullient and effective self and gave another example of why Liverpool must move heaven and high earth to get him to sign on the dotted line. He was the most impressive player in a red shirt, and left Kopites grinning ear to ear.

Sterling’s spindly legs weaved in and out of Newcastle defenders and, a glaring second-half miss aside emphasised why he is so integral to the plans of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

Significantly the 20-year-old helped Liverpool to secure a victory which kept the pressure up on the Premier League’s top four and a coveted place in next season’s Champions League.

This win cut the gap on fourth-placed Manchester City to four points with six matches of the season remaining.

Liverpool still need snookers, but it ensured that Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final clash with Aston Villa at Wembley is now not the be-all and end-all of their season. A draw or worse last night, and that might well have been the case.

“We knew it was an important game for us,” Jordan Henderson said last night. “The last couple of weeks in the Premier League have been disappointing both with performances and results. We knew today we needed to put that right and I think we did that with a great result for us.”

Liverpool had been in red-hot form prior to the those consecutive losses, and Henderson believes they have what it takes to put the pressure on City.

“We’ve got ground to make up but we’ll just keep going, keep winning in games and putting in performances,” he said. “Come the end of the season, you never know.”

After Sterling’s fine skill to open the scoring in the ninth minute, Joe Allen capitalised on a defensive mistake to score his first Anfield goal with 20 minutes to go.

“It was great to get that goal to give us that two-goal cushion,” Allen said.

Newcastle had what looked a strong shout for a penalty when Dejan Lovren appeared to foul Ayoze Perez in the area, and Allen admitted he thought it was a spot-kick.

“I did get a good view of it as I’d missed the ball in the build-up,” he said. “It look a good shot for a penalty, but I didn’t get one the other night. These things happen.”

Newcastle manager John Carver was frustrated by the decision.

“Huge decisions change games. I thought at the time it was a stonewall penalty.”

Liverpool buzzed with intent from kick-off; Sterling and the impressive Philippe Coutinho dropping deep in search of the ball, eager to test the legs of a Newcastle defence that were attempting to avoid their fifth straight Premier League defeat

Although they were without striker Daniel Sturridge — carrying a knock from last week’s FA Cup quarter-final win over Blackburn — they still possessed more cutting edge.

The Reds secured the breakthrough their early pressure warranted in the ninth minute and inevitably Jamaica-born Sterling’s silky touch provided it.

After some neat build-up play Henderson’s cross-field pass was adroitly cushioned by Sterling, who left Ryan Taylor statuesque as he zipped inside and curled a finish high into the net past the oustretched palm of Tim Krul.

Despite Liverpool’s dominance the away team flickered into life shortly before the half-hour mark when Gabriel Obertan’ cross dropped for Mehdi Abeid but he could only shoot straight at Simon Mignolet.

Lucas should have increased Liverpool’s lead when he founded himself unmarked and got his head on a Henderson free-kick only for flying Dutchman Krul to save spectacularly.

Newcastle manager Carver leapt out of dugout, arms outstretched, shortly after when the Toon were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty as Perez fell under Lovren’s challenge.

After Obertan headed wide minute in the second half Sterling’s earlier smiles turned to a grimace as he missed a sitter from Henderson’s cross.

It would not affect the outcome of the contest, though, as Liverpool scored a second goal with 21 minutes of the match remaining.

A corner was sent back into the Newcastle penalty area and Mike Williamson, rather than clear first time, controlled the ball on chest only for the alert Allen to react and clinically dispatch it into the top-left corner of the net.

Liverpool’s job in the remainder of the game was much easier when the visitors were reduced to 10 after a needless late lunge by Moussa Sissoko.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 7; Johnson 5, Can 6, Lovren 5, Moreno 7; Henderson 7, Lucas 6, Allen 7; Ibe 5 (Borini 59; 5), Coutinho 7, Sterling 8 (Lambert 89; 6).

NEWCASTLE (4-5-1):Krul 7; Taylor 4, Janmaat 5, Williamson 4, Anita 6; Obertan 5 (Gutierrez 67; 7), Colback 7, Abeid 7 (Armstrong 75; 6), Sissoko 5, Cabella 8; Perez 7 (Gouffran 86; 6).

Referee: Lee Mason

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox