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Raheem Sterling strikes and shows that he's worth the trouble after shisha pipe picture


Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal of the in Liverpool;s win over Newcastle United at Anfield

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal of the in Liverpool;s win over Newcastle United at Anfield

AFP/Getty Images

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal of the in Liverpool;s win over Newcastle United at Anfield

The two faces of Raheem Sterling were on display last night. The first was of the striker wheeling away, smiling in wild innocence at the loveliest of goals that showed the full extent of his talent.

The second was a rather guiltier grin posted online, embarrassingly close to the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

It was a video that purported to show the forward inhaling 'laughing gas', a legal but dangerous high. It came hard on the heels of him trying out a shisha pipe on a night out.

Neither are recommended as ideal preparation for a Premier League footballer, especially one determined to prove he should be paid the annual salary of five nurses every week. The talent is obvious but sometimes the thinking is not.

Sterling, heckled during Liverpool's kit launch last Friday, must have wondered what kind of reception he would receive. Liverpool are a club that rarely turns on their own, at least while they are wearing a red shirt.

Those who came from Tyneside saw rather more resistance than they might have expected but were once more betrayed by the kind of shoddy defending that always seems to have accompanied them through the Premier League years.

When Mike Williamson dozily delayed his clearance in the 70th minute, Joe Allen had the presence of mind to shoot past goalkeeper Tim Krul.

Liverpool's second ensured their manager, Brendan Rodgers, would succeed in his aim of cutting Manchester City's lead in the final Champions League position to four points.

It was virtually guaranteed when the Newcastle captain, Moussa Sissoko, launched a wretched tackle on Lucas Leiva and turned without waiting for the second yellow card. The night for Newcastle was also done.

Just before kick-off, there was a moment of perfect stillness as Anfield remembered Hillsborough. On that day in April 1989, Newcastle were at Highbury, on their way to being relegated and losing 1-0.

But for their run of five straight wins in the autumn that included a victory over Liverpool at St James' Park, Newcastle would now be stone-cold certainties to repeat the feat.

For John Carver, who despite his admirable passion for all things black and white looks like being a very interim manager, the wounds of the abject defeat in the Tyne-Wear derby on Easter Sunday were still visible: "It will define my spell in charge," he had said. "I will suffer for weeks, for months, maybe for years."

All Carver could hope for was a better display than the one they had delivered on Wearside. For that, Newcastle would be required to aim two shots at goal. They managed two in the final minutes of the first half with Ayoze Perez forcing a full-length save from Simon Mignolet before Mehdi Abeid shot into the crowd.

Shortly after the interval, Newcastle, who have not won at Anfield since Kevin Keegan's first spell in charge, looked the better side.

More significantly, the visitors should have had a penalty when Dejan Lovren, still horribly out of form, appeared to bring Perez down. At half time Carver went to confront the referee, Lee Mason, turned and bumped into a policeman.

Jordan Henderson had once been part of a Sunderland side that had been thrashed 5-1 by Newcastle and, as a Wearsider who travelled to support them in last year's League Cup final, overcoming the enemy will have meant a lot.

It was his fabulous crossfield pass that opened up Newcastle's paper-thin defence for Sterling to break through.

There was still plenty for the forward to do as he took the ball first past Ryan Taylor and then Gabriel Obertan before curling it deliciously past Krul. There were four black and white shirts around him when he took the shot on goal.

Henderson is a vastly better footballer than the one who arrived on Merseyside struggling to answer questions as to how Kenny Dalglish thought him worth £20m.

Now there was a cleverly-taken short free-kick when Newcastle's defence were expecting something altogether more spectacular that almost sent Philippe Coutinho through. Another, headed on by Lucas, was fabulously parried by Krul.

It was judged offside, though the keeper would have no inkling of the flag when he made the save.

Henderson ought to have produced a second for Sterling with a low cross in front of the Kop that Ryan Taylor missed completely. It fell to the forward six yards out with Krul committed and he somehow managed to screw the shot wide.

Rodgers had already turned to celebrate with one arm raised and turned again to find the score was still 1-0. It was not the only thing about Sterling the Liverpool manager would have difficulty believing last night

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Lovren, Henderson, Allen, Coutinho, Ibe (Borini 59),Sterling (Lambert 89).

Booked: Johnson,Moreno.

Goals: Sterling 9,Allen 70.

Newcastle: Krul, Ryan Taylor, Anita, Abeid (Armstrong 75), Janmaat, Williamson,Obertan (Gutierrez 67),Colback,Perez (Gouffran 87), Sissoko, Cabella.

Sent Off: Sissoko (83).

Booked: Sissoko.

Attendance: 44,611

Man of match: Philippe Coutinho

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Belfast Telegraph

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