Souness feels heat from latest batch of Newcastle indiscretions

Liverpool - Newcastle United 1
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It was at Anfield that Graeme Souness defined the role of the brave, inspirational modern midfield general and it was at the same stadium yesterday that he was reminded of what happens to teams without those qualities. Insipid and listless would be kind ways to describe his Newcastle side, but there are those who might feel that this collection of players are passing the point of redemption.

It was at Anfield that Graeme Souness defined the role of the brave, inspirational modern midfield general and it was at the same stadium yesterday that he was reminded of what happens to teams without those qualities. Insipid and listless would be kind ways to describe his Newcastle side, but there are those who might feel that this collection of players are passing the point of redemption.

The club started the day dealing with another lurid suggestion that certain players had misbehaved at the Ritz Hotel during a weekend away in London and they ended it with the woeful record of one win in their last eight Premiership games. Somewhere in between the two, Newcastle saw Lee Bowyer sent off, but, as disgraces go, it was a measure of their current plight that a red card for one of English football's unloved sons really was the least of their worries.

By the time Bowyer made the short journey to the tunnel, with barely a glance from Souness, the afternoon's contest, at 3-1, was comprehensively over for the Newcastle manager. As his chairman Freddy Shepherd glared down from the directors' box at the fourth consecutive Premiership match without a victory he will have wondered what will halt this decline. There can be no mistaking that the pressure on Souness, just four months into the job, has become real and immediate.

The Newcastle manager took an age to emerge from his changing room afterwards but said that the exchange with his players had not been a "screaming match or a shouting match". It was he explained, "quite civilised" and then, as he looked around him and remembered the reputation he has in these parts, he added that it was "perhaps too civilised for my liking".

"I don't want to talk about injuries because I think we have players who are capable," Souness said. "We have to stand up and be counted."

As far as the manager of the Ritz Hotel was concerned, Souness admitted that he had received a letter of complaint about his players - understood to be Patrick Kluivert and Craig Bellamy - but would be taking the matter no further. On the allegation that their behaviour was too boisterous, Souness replied: "Good, they are boys and it was their day off."

But what a mess his boys were out on the field. They took the lead on 32 minutes when Kieron Dyer poked a ball out right to Bowyer whose cut-back was met by Kluivert, clearly offside, in the Liverpool area. The Dutch striker was promoted from the bench after Bellamy's back problem forced him to withdraw in the warm-up, the seventh player Souness has lost to injury.

The equaliser came courtesy of Titus Bramble who headed past his own keeper from a Steven Gerrard corner three minutes after Newcastle took the lead. Against a Newcastle team lost for leaders, Gerrard was, yet again, an unstoppable force, moving across the Liverpool midfield and eluding all those who tried to exert some control over him.

Seven minutes short of half-time, Jamie Carragher angled a simple ball through the heart of the Newcastle midfield to the feet of Milan Baros. With no great difficulty the Czech striker spun round Robbie Elliott and laid the ball aside to Neil Mellor who rolled his fifth goal of the season past Shay Given. "You don't see too many goals right down the middle in the Premiership," said Souness, although yesterday he was treated to two in one afternoon.

Liverpool's third was made just after the hour by Harry Kewell, who rocketed away from Jermaine Jenas in midfield and applied enough backspin to his through-ball to allow Baros to collect it before Given. He stepped past the goalkeeper and finished: another goal routed straight down the middle.

It only remained for Souness to offer his assessment on Bowyer. He was booked for a tackle on Xabi Alonso and then given his second caution for felling Florent Sinama-Pongolle on 77 minutes. "Reckless and wild," Souness said, "he let his team-mates down."

If he wanted to allocate blame to his players then Bowyer would be the best place to start, but there were plenty more waiting in the queue.

Goals: Kluivert (32) 0-1; Bramble og (35) 1-1; Mellor (38) 2-1; Baros (61) 3-1.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise; Garcia (Nunez, 74), Alonso, Gerrard, Kewell (Traoré, 85); Baros, Mellor (Sinama-Pongolle, 75). Substitutes not used: Harrison (gk), Hamann.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Given; O'Brien, Bramble, Elliott, Bernard; Milner (N'Zogbia, 72), Jenas, Dyer (Ambrose, 80), Bowyer; Kluivert (Robert 58), Ameobi. Substitute not used: Harper (gk).

Booked: Newcastle: Bowyer, Elliott, Bernard. Sent off: Bowyer (77).

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Man of the match: Gerrard.

Attendance: 43,856.

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