Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dreamboat and Dummett ensure history doesn't repeat itself

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Liverpool

For the third fixture in a row against the Reds we had a man sent off - but mercifully there was to be no repeat of last season's horrific 6-0 thrashing, thanks to a performance of encouraging spirit and resolve in the face of adversity.

Injury to skipper Sideshow Bob meant a recall for MYM, but this was largely by default and the more notable difference from the side that won at Cardiff before the international break was the selection of HBA ahead of Papiss Cisse. While it wasn't much of a shock that the Senegalese striker paid the price for his continued lack of goals, the Silver Fox did spring a surprise by stationing HBA centrally.

That decision didn't really pay off, HBA a peripheral figure for the most part, but its consequence was that Loic Remy continued to operate on the left side of the front three, the position in which he's been most dangerous. On the other flank, Goofy's work rate and effort were superb, though you wonder whether he might not have been better switched with HBA.

No matter, though - with Mr T appearing to have rediscovered his form in conjunction with being awarded the captain's armband and Dreamboat bossing midfield, we were in general control of the game. Chances were at a premium, though. Mathieu Debuchy had tried his luck from range with a shot that was comfortably smothered by ex-Mackem Simon Mignolet, but when his pal Dreamboat took aim from a similar position shortly after the half-hour, the Belgian 'keeper stood no chance of stopping his bouncing, swerving drive from finding the bottom corner.

That sparked a flurry of opportunities, with the Reds' potent strikeforce of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge starting to give Tim Krul something to do. The Dutchman was able to watch calmly, though, as headers from Martin Skrtel and Aly Cissokho sailed harmlessly over. Davide Santon was rather more perturbed by a headed effort from Suarez, clearing behind for a corner, though replays suggested it may have been drifting just wide of the post.

Not that Liverpool had started to have it all their own way, with Moussa Sissoko close to extending our lead only for Mignolet to beat away his left-footed drive. So it was a hammer blow when Sturridge chipped the ball through for Suarez, played onside by Mr T lazily jogging out from the box, and he tumbled following a slight but unmistakeable hand on the shoulder from MYM. The defender didn't make it past half-time in his last appearance, also against opposition from Merseyside, and the inevitable red card brandished by Andre Marriner meant he continued that unhappy tradition, the Silver Fox admitting he had "no qualms" about the decision. Steven Gerrard scored from the spot, his 100th goal since football began (i.e. in the Premier League...), and suddenly the game had a very different complexion.

MYM's dismissal left the Silver Fox with a dilemma: who to bring off to be able to introduce our one fit defender on the bench, Paul Dummett. The fact that Sissoko was the unlucky man was intriguing - HBA would have been a more obvious candidate, as something of a luxury player, but our original three-pronged attack was retained. There was also some surprise when rookie left-back Dummett took up position in the centre of the defence. Presumably his inexperience was taken into account but it was nevertheless felt that neither Debuchy nor Santon would have sufficient stature to partner Mike Williamson.

As it turned out, though, Dummett's most significant contribution came at the other end ten minutes into the second half. Dreamboat's free kick glanced off a defender and the substitute found himself in the perfect position at the back post to sidefoot a seasoned striker's finish past Mignolet. Not only did it break the run of Premier League goals scored by Frenchmen (13 including Dreamboat's earlier in the match), it was also the first strike from a Newcastle-born player since Wor Al's farewell spot kick against the Mackems in April 2006.

The major challenge now was to hold out - something Suarez seemed hell-bent on wrecking. First his angled shot was saved by a firm Krul right hand, and then he darted into the box and, with the Dutchman out of position, crossed for Sturridge to plant a diving header into the empty net under close attention from two defenders.

It could have been worse, had the odious Uruguayan's shot gone under the bar rather than striking it or had his stoppage-time free kick not been repelled by Krul. In truth, though, Liverpool missed the creative influence of Philippe Coutinho, outstanding in last season's demolition, as his replacement Victor Moses was largely poor. We could even potentially have snatched a winner, with Remy looking a real threat on the counter-attack as the Reds pushed forwards.

Honours even, then - and certainly a point was the least we deserved. We do now go into Sunday's derby with a central defence down to the barest of bones, but a team that has scored twice in each of the last five Premier League fixtures will fancy its chances against a porous Mackem back line that shipped another four without reply in Gus Poyet's first match in charge. With only a solitary point to their name thus far, the Great Unwashed will be desperate to get that first win of the season against us - it's our job to frustrate them and, more than that, to exact revenge for April's humiliation.

A Liverpool fan's perspective: The Liverpool Offside

Other reports: .com, BBC, Observer

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