Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 0: Liverpool produce vintage display to leave Owen looking like forgotten man

Click to follow
The Independent Football

There was a "homecoming" of sorts for Owen yesterday, but only a rather unwelcome one, as his every touch was greeted by unexpected jeers from the Kop. The jeers faded away in the second half - a reflection of Newcastle's abject performance rather than the sudden arrival of Christian forgiveness at Anfield.

"It was disappointing to hear him get a mixed reception," Steven Gerrard, whoput the homeside ahead after 13 minutes, said. "Michael is a legend here, always will be, and he deserves a standing ovation for all he has done at this football club."

If the Liverpool captain did have cause for regret, and that is debatable after his team outclassed a sorry Newcastle side, then it will pale in comparison with the problems encountered by his former team-mate. After the final whistle Owen was surrounded by Liverpool players, and must have wished that he could have stayed with them after a contest that exposed the gulf in both the quality and strategy of the two clubs.

Owen's afternoon began painfully with an accidental elbow in the face from John Arne Riise. His former admirers in the stadium, who have clearly not forgotten the reticence that he showed in signing a new contract before joining Real Madrid for a cut-price £8m, soon added to his discomfort by chanting "Where were you in Istanbul?" and "What a waste of talent". On the evidence of this contest, one witnessed by members of Owen's family, it would be hard to argue with that final assessment.

Newcastle have spent their riches on a valuable attack, but have a defence rich only in comic value. As if Owen's endless wait for a decent pass was not enough to keep the home crowd amused, they were also entertained by an appalling start from the visitors, whose defenders looked as if they had only just met. Liverpool were quick to seize on such disarray and dominate. "Liverpool were magnificent and we were poor in the first half," Graeme Souness said. "They had some outstanding performers, especially in central midfield, and while we hoped for a reaction from their recent travels, there wasn't one."

With Lee Bowyer sent off in the second half, and Steven Taylor, Newcastle's promising young defender, facing three months out after dislocating his shoulder for the second time in six weeks, the problems for Souness did not end after the final whistle.

Gerrard's goal came after some desperate Newcastle defending, when Peter Crouch turned Luis Garcia's cross into his path. The England midfielder feigned a first-time shot, which outfoxed Taylor, and gave Gerrard an extra yard of space, which he used to place an unstoppable strike into the top right-hand corner of Shay Given's goal.

The visitors' response was ineffective, with Owen left aimlessly running into the corners of the pitch after a series of long balls.

The points were secured in the 43rd minute when Fernando Morientes released Harry Kewell down the Liverpool left, a constant source of success. Kewell's first-time chip to the far post offered Crouch the perfect invitation to head past the outstanding Given. The ball was turned on to the base of the post before spinning over the goal-line. Despite attempts to claim otherwise, there was no doubt it was Crouch's goal - his fifth of the season.

Liverpool squandered further chances to register an emphatic victory, and were also denied by Given's heroics, before Bowyer's crude challenge on Xabi Alonso led to a mass mêlée and a red card from the referee Mark Halsey.

"I haven't seen it clearly, but I don't think he was the only one who should have seen red," Souness said, referring to a push by Crouch that resulted in only a yellow card. As for the result and the performance of his side, though, Newcastle's manager could offer no further defence.

Goals: Gerrard (13) 1-0; Crouch (43) 2-0.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan (Josemi, 78), Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Garcia, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Sinama-Pongolle, 67); Crouch (Cissé, 72), Morientes. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Warnock.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Taylor (Bramble, 28), Boumsong, Babayaro; Bowyer, Faye, N'Zogbia (Solano, 46), Luque (Ameobi, 86); Shearer, Owen. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk).

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Liverpool Crouch.

Sent off: Bowyer (66).

Man of the match: Morientes.

Attendance: 44,197.