|Reina let's the occasion get the better of him...|
Dalglish appeared to have listened to the calls from fans for the likes of Shelvey to start and he also played both Carroll and Suarez. He also opted for a more positive line up adding Bellamy to the two up front, on paper and before kick off that team looked good, it was a total change and to me after recent results it was exactly what was required.
Just 9 minutes in Andy Carroll found himself with a chance to hush the boos from the Newcastle fans. The big man was hoping for a slightly better reception but if he wanted some respect from his ex employers he passed up the chance immediately. After some brilliance sweeping the ball into space past the Newcastle defenders Carroll found himself one on one with the keeper, after taking Krul on, Carroll unfortunately decided to go down as opposed to staying on his feet and getting a shot on an empty goal.
Some people, including Dalglish are saying Carroll was on his way down anyway but to me he had the choice to keep his landing foot strong, i agree he may not have managed to steady himself and get a successful shot on goal, but he should have tried anyway. The dive was a ridiculous decision from Carroll.
Andy Carroll's chance aside, Liverpool still had some opportunities to get themselves on the score sheet. Namely when a cross was whipped in by Steven Gerrard, after hitting the face of a Newcastle defender and heading goalwards Danny Simpson who was holding the post pushed his arm forward to prevent the ball from going into the back of the net.
This was hand ball, no question about it but did the referee or the linesman see it? No. You could argue in a game currently at 0-0, a penalty for Liverpool would have been invaluable and yes you could probably assume that given the chance, Gerrard would have converted but after the following performance does anyone seriously think we'd have won the game anyway? Because i don't. We didn't deserve anything from that game and sometimes that's just the way luck goes.
Shortly after the penalty decision Newcastle found their first goal. A cross from Ben Arfa was sent into the box and after Martin Skrtel misjudged a defensive header and perhaps his positioning, Papiss Cisse was able to get in a header and left Reina with no chance.
It was that typical story again for the Reds, a lively start complete with some chances missed and before you know it we're on the back foot. There wasn't much confidence going in to this game and once Newcastle had scored despite the hope, the game already felt like it was lost.
In terms of shots on target, by the end of the 90 minutes there was only a goals difference in it with Liverpool's 6 to Newcastle's 7 but vitally, Newcastle took their chances when they arose.
Just under the hour mark and Newcastle converted their second. Once again Papiss Cisse with some wonderful skill weaved the ball into a position where he could slide it into the back of the net. There is no doubt in the ability of this star buy and Alan Pardew must be over the moon with his forward's performances but in all honesty, he was offside. Miles offside.
Once again though, luck isn't Liverpool's lady at the moment and i still get the feeling that even with some magic dust, Cisse would have probably found himself another goal anyway with they way he was playing.
Shortly after Newcastle's second Liverpool attempted to quickly respond. A Luis Suarez shot that looked like it was about to go in was blocked by James Perch. The resulting corner gave Skrtel a chance at goal but he couldn't convert either.
Things began to get frustrating for Liverpool and the temperature certainly began to rise. The performances from the majority of the lads just weren't up to scratch, in fact i only really appreciated the efforts of Suarez, Flanagan and probably Spearing in that game because to me the other lads didn't really look arsed, even Bellamy had an off game which is very unlike him.
The difference for me with Suarez and Carroll (and Carroll didn't actually have that bad a game, just a shame he dived) is that Suarez always tries, he'll chase down balls that are lost and constantly put pressure on a goalkeeper or defender attempting to distribute. With Carroll it's like he expects everything to fall to him, if a cross isn't perfectly to his feet or head he instantly moans, if he'd just shut his trap and go after the ball he might find himself less frustrated.
At 80 minutes Carroll was replaced with Dirk Kuyt. Unsurprisingly he wasn't happy about this but by this stage i was still sticking up for the lad who was in a hostile environment from the first whistle however, my sympathy quickly disintegrated.
Andy Carroll would have done better by having a hissy fit and kicking a Lucozade bottle at the fourth official but instead he completely ignored Dalglish and went off sulking down the tunnel. When your side is 2-0 down in such a bad run of form, how on earth does that help anyone? I understand he was frustrated but so was the whole side, what the lads needed was his support and Dalglish would have appreciated a hand shake for his constant faith in the number 9 too. I seriously hope Carroll has had a long hard think about Sunday because I'm fed up of sticking up for a man who clearly has bags of potential but is turning in to an absolute arse.
Carroll's replacement Kuyt is certainly somebody i would look at starting in the next few games. Currently there is no motivation from the lads and no fight but Dirk Kuyt is the type of man that is instantly motivated, he always gives his all and he's a brilliant example for the other lads to follow.
As if things weren't bad enough for Liverpool who by now were almost praying for the full time whistle, things were set to get worse. As mentioned before, frustrations were high and Pepe Reina let the red mist descend.
Upon trying to quickly distribute James Perch clipped Pepe Reina and put him off balance. Understandably, Reina was angry and even when he began to walk towards Perch i still expected just a barge or a shout to show the lad who's boss but what followed was a silly decision from the Spaniard.
James Perch made sure he made the most of it, holding his face when it wasn't even touched and falling to the floor but Pepe Reina cannot act in such a way. You can't push your head forward or show intent, you just can't. Some people reckon Reina shouldn't have been sent walking but you only have to look at the Fulham game when Dempsey put his head to Bellamy and we were all calling for him to be sent off to see the comparison. Of course, if Bellamy had gone down like a pansy I'm sure Dempsey would have been sent off too.
I still can't believe Reina did it, it's so unlike him and the only positive is that a man like Reina will make sure he learns from this. Unfortunately for Liverpool though an apology and a lesson learnt won't quite cut it as we're now left without our world class goal keeper for one of the most important games of our season; the FA Cup semi final.
What made things worse at this stage was that Dalglish had entered the field of play. I'm not quite sure why he did that but i think Gerrard was right to instill some sort of command and reality to the situation by asking Dalglish to return to the sidelines. Dalglish i feel must have just been trying to help but he doesn't help himself in doing this, to opposition fans this must have been hilarious and i just wish he'd have stayed put.
After a couple of goal kicks from Jose Enrique and a decent save too Liverpool had to settle for nothing once again as the final whistle was blown.
I know, you know and the whole footballing world knows that for a Liverpool side with the names that are in it, this isn't good enough. Of course the Carling Cup win and the FA Cup semi final are fantastic but his cannot take the shine off the persistently poor performances in the league.
Dalglish is a true legend, and nothing will ever take this away, he knows how to play football and I'm still convinced he knows how to manage but importantly at this moment in time he just can't seem to get the lads motivated. Why this is I'm not sure and i truly wish that the story was a different one but Dalglish would admit himself that he should be criticised as any manager should and that he's no different.
The players must take half the blame too and whilst i agree the situation needs to be looked at in the summer i still see no benefit in sacking him now. As I've mentioned before, what's the point? The league is messed up anyway and there's no time in my opinion to change our position substantially. Dalglish got us to the semi final and he's at least earned the right to attempt to get us to another cup final.
In a perfect world there would be a sudden rise in form, superb signings would be made in the summer and Dalglish would have unlocked the secret but i personally cannot see this.
Until then all we can do is get behind the man we love so much and get behind the players because as disappointing as it is to see Liverpool like this, throwing our toys out the pram and failing to get behind them isn't going to help anybody.
Here's hoping Doni can pull off a miracle!