There was no instant return on their £470 million investment but Liverpool's new owners will be pleasantly surprised when viewing the DVD of this engaging advert for Premiership "soccer". Billionaires George Gillett and Tom Hicks may have been absent as their recently acquired franchise - sorry, football club - entered a new era but for two tycoons raised on the total entertainment of American sport this historically frantic fixture delivered in every respect.
A pitch which was always bordering on the waterlogged undoubtedly added to the overall picture of high tempo football played in a typically English style. However, referee Mark Halsey was clearly correct in giving an ultimately thrilling game the go-ahead even if a series of early defensive mistakes may have given the respective managers, Glenn Roeder and Rafa Benitez, cause to disagree.
The Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper's loose clearance allowed Craig Bellamy, the enfant terrible of Graeme Souness's misfiring United team, to open the scoring within six minutes but if that was a glaring error then Jose Reina mimicked his counterpart 20 minutes later.
The Spanish international cannoned the ball against the retreating Daniel Agger and the deflection dropped invitingly into the path of the Magpies' Nigerian international forward Obafemi Martins. From close range the African equalised with ease.
Harper denied Bolo Zenden and Bellamy, twice, as Liverpool quickly came to terms with the atrocious conditions and a frank Roeder conceded: "For 15 minutes or so we survived some hairy moments and our equaliser was a desperate goal for Liverpool to concede."
Solano, the former Peru international, secured a 69th- minute lead for Newcastle after John Arne Riise had tripped the United defender, Steven Taylor. It was an advantage the home team rarely looked like surrendering as the central defensive partnership of Titus Bramble and Oguchi Onyewu held firm in the face of concerted late Liverpool pressure.
"After the first half we could have been three or four goals up and we gave away a stupid goal before the break," admitted Benitez, who will take his squad on a training camp to Portugal tomorrow prior to a potentially season-defining Champions' League tie with Barcelona. "We created enough chances to win the game.
"We need to learn that when we create that number of chances we have to win the game. It is clear the conditions were not the best but in the first half we were clearly the better team because we adapted well to those conditions. I cannot complain about the game going ahead."
For Roeder and the Newcastle squad a landmark victory was tinged with sadness following the death of Celestine Babayaro's younger brother late on Friday night. The Nigerian full back returned from injury to face Liverpool and decided to play through his grief following a discussion with his manager and London-based family.
"Celestine's brother lost his life after a long battle against TB and it took courage to play," said Roeder. "I had a talk with him and he decided to play. I did the same on the day my father died so I know how difficult it is. It put a lot of things into perspective for all of us."Reuse content