Belfast Telegraph

Fairytale return to Liverpool for Steven Gerrard

By Simon Peach

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard made a fairytale return to the Reds side last night, scoring the third goal in a crucial 3-1 win against Newcastle United at Anfield.

A Daniel Agger own goal gave United a surprise lead but a Craig Bellamy brace had the hosts in the driving seat before second half substitute Gerrard put injury nightmares to the back of his mind by drilling in the third goal.

Newcastle's only Premier League win at Anfield (2-0) was in the same month as Matt Le Tissier's famous hat-trick in a 5-4 win for Southampton against Norwich - back in April, 1994.

Strikers Andy Carroll and Bellamy both started for Liverpool against their former club.

Club-record signing Carroll kept his place from Boxing Day's draw with Blackburn but Bellamy replaced the suspended Luis Suarez while Jay Spearing came in for Maxi Rodriguez, the goalscorer against Rovers.

Newcastle made one change from the side which beat Bolton with Haris Vuckic making only his second Premier League start - his first being nine days ago in the defeat to West Brom.

Despite drawing six matches at home this season Liverpool have nearly always dominated at Anfield and although the opening stages were not as one-sided as previous games they still enjoyed the majority of possession. However, it took until the 15th minute to create their first real chance but when former Magpies left-back Jose Enrique drilled a cross through the six-yard area Stewart Downing was moving away from goal rather than towards it.

Charlie Adam fired a 35-yard shot over and Downing drew Tim Krul into a save low at his left-hand post.

Newcastle took the lead in odd circumstances in the 25th minute.

Vuckic was walking towards the bench having been hit in the face by Glen Johnson's clearance but Newcastle played on and when Ryan Taylor swung in a cross from the left the ball just missed Yohan Cabaye only for Ba's shoulder to inadvertently divert it past Jose Reina under pressure from Agger.

However, within four minutes Liverpool were level through Bellamy. Cheik Tiote made a poor attempt at clearing Adam's cut-back from the right of the penalty area and Bellamy drive through a crowd of players from 16 yards.

In the second half before Cabaye was lucky to escape punishment after catching Spearing halfway up his shin with a late tackle.

Gerrard replaced Adam just before the hour and the captain's first involvement was to whip in a near-post cross which almost picked out Carroll.

When the England midfielder did find the unmarked striker in five yards of space in the penalty area the £35m signing's first touch let him down badly.

Carroll played a decoy role in Liverpool's second goal but the decisive move came from Danny Simpson.

As Bellamy lined up a 67th-minute free-kick the Newcastle defender decided to back-track to the goalline, allowing Carroll to advance towards Krul and when the set-piece came in Simpson got in the way of his goalkeeper and the ball crept between the two of them.

Newcastle should have equalised when Ba clipped a narrow-angle shot over Reina only for Skrtel to clear just inches from the goalline.

Liverpool made the points safe in dream fashion when returning skipper Gerrard rifled in a stunning third after fine approach play from Spearing and Jordan Henderson in the 78th minute to move the Reds into fifth place in the league table.

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