Ayoze Perez grabbed the match-winner against an underperforming Liverpool as Newcastle returned to the top half of the table for the first time this season.
Manager Alan Pardew has had to endure serious criticism after the first seven matches of the season, but proved he indeed knows what he is up to as his side inflict a fourth league defeat on Liverpool, who face a trip to the Bernebeu next Tuesday in a Champions League group stage game.
Fresh from claiming two gongs at a gala organized by Spain’s professional football league association for his time at Teneriffe last season, 21-year-old Perez’s strike made all difference in a very tight contest.
Mario Balotelli- in search for his first Premier League goal since his £16m move from AC Milan- retained his position in the starting lineup, while Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson kept their places after impressing the Brendan Rodgers in the midweek Capital One Cup win.
Midfielder Mehdi Abeid was rewarded with his first league start by Pardew after earning a starter role in the win at Manchester City.
Newcastle sat back against City and waited for a break to press home their claim for goals and happiness in what- only for their last three matches- had been a difficult campaign. But with just two points separating them from the drop, they couldn’t afford the luxury of playing second best and had to come out in full force.
Early on, Liverpool spent more time on the ball, although struggled to move it into their opponents’ half, despite having all the required confidence in passing it around.
As well as the whole ‘Magpies’, except for the referee’s disinterest in penalising some ambitious tackles by the visitors, Gabriel Obertan had nice time troubling defenders with his slick play but ended on the turf while traveling at full pace and out in a stretcher, paving way for midweek goalscorer Rolando Aarons.
After a quiet half-hour, Papiss Cisse came up with the first real threat as he turned towards goal a cross from a corner only for right-back Henderson to react quickly and clear off the line.
A couple of minutes later, Martin Skrtel came closest having had all time and space to divert Steven Gerrard’s corner into the net from the near post, but thumped it wide. And with those few unaccomplished chances saved for the closing minutes, it was pretty sure both sets of fans would manage a slight grin at the break, to the displeasure of both personnel on the touchline but very much to Rodgers’ distaste having watched his men give up possession in the midfield for most of the half.
The ‘Reds’ were determined to make amends for their slow movement upfront in the opening half and within 12 minutes of restart conjoined their best move of the game, but for Tim Krul to repel Coutinho’s header with a one-handed save following Gerrard’s lovely ball- the offside flag was up though.
St. James’ Park continued to erupt in tremendous voice as Newcastle pushed for an opener with great poise and finally pulled ahead in the 73rd minute. None other but a certain half-time substitute, who was given dispensation by his club to travel to Spain and receive the LFP price for the breakthrough player and the Segunda division’s best attacking midfielder for the 2013/14 season on Tuesday.
Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno reacted well to cut out Paul Dummett’s cross, but the ball rolled into the path of Perez who smashed home from close range.
Fellow sub Remy Cabella came close to doubling the lead three minutes later following a two-on-one counter attack but watched Simon Mignolet deny his effort with his foot.
Liverpool were once more thankful to Mignolet, who clawed out Moussa Sissoko’s shot, after the Frenchman broke through Liverpool’s porous defence into the box.
The Anfield side pressed forward en masse for an equaliser but were disappointed not to have gotten one as Newcastle held on to their fourth win in quick succession- three on the trot in the league.