Liverpool kept their top four hopes alive after a 2-0 victory over a struggling Newcastle United and closed the gap with Manchester City to only four points, with six games left to be played.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for the home side before Joe Allen scored in the second half to secure the three points for Liverpool.
Key observations from the game:
- After Liverpool’s back to back defeats against Manchester United and Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers conceded that a Premier League top four finish was unlikely. Manchester City’s recent slump in form (losing six out their last eight games), however, has given the Reds a renewed hope. They need to win all their remaining matches (four away games including a trip to Chelsea) and hope City continue to drop further points.
- Newcastle hardly provided any resistance, but Liverpool were nearly responsible for their own demise. They created loads of chances but failed to find the end product, while the defence was lackadaisical at times.
- Raheem Sterling started from left rather than centrally but the decision paid off after he scored a fine early goal. It was a brilliant individual goal but the 20-year-old also missed two gilt-edged chances in the second half that only proves he is still far from the finished article. It was frustrating to see Daniel Sturridge missing again through injury while Mario Balotelli is seen nowhere near the playing squad. Sterling being Liverpool’s top scorer with seven goals indicates where the club’s priorities lie when strengthening the squad this summer.
- Philippe Coutinho is undoubtedly Liverpool’s player of the season and he delivered yet another scintillating performance – full of creativity, craft and guile. Liverpool’s No 10 was used as a false nine and he performed the task with great aplomb. There were times he dropped deep to help the midfielders out, allowing Henderson and Allen to push up when required.
- Jordan Henderson has developed into a fine all round player. Along with his defensive midfield duties he has shown a real creative verve as well. He delivered a wonderful pass to Sterling for the opening goal, and could have registered another assist had the Liverpool forward not been profligate enough to squander a golden opportunity from three yards out.
Final words: Since Raheem Sterling had last appeared on home turf, he occupied the back pages for reasons non relating to football. He confirmed in an unauthorised interview last week that he had rejected a 100k-per-week contract, and was pictured smoking a shisha pipe. And yet he hopes the Kop to devise a song for him.
He got his wish. Fans chanted his name, delivered a message to his agent, and probably inspired him to take his game to another level. He was forgiven all at once. Does he still need any extra motivation to sign a new deal at Liverpool?