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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 21:38 GMT
Robert rocks Liverpool
Liverpool's Salif Diao challenges Newcastle's Craig Bellamy
Salif Diao was sent off midway through the second half
Newcastle 1-0 Liverpool

Newcastle notched up their ninth consecutive home league win as Sir Bobby Robson's side kept in touching distance of the Premiership leaders Arsenal.

The game's only goal arrived after 13 minutes through a Laurent Robert free kick, which was deflected goalward by Milan Baros after the Liverpool wall broke.

If we could play every game at home we could win the championship!

Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson

A disastrous start to 2003 for Gerard Houllier's side also saw Salif Diao dismissed in the 66th minute after the Senegalese international picked up his second yellow card.

Booked in the first half for his challenge on Craig Bellamy, Diao was sent off after his tackle on Andy Griffin.

Over the last two months Liverpool have gathered just four points from 30, are without a victory in 10 games and trail Arsenal by 12 points.

Houllier's team were below par for much of the game and only really Steven Gerrard showed much appetite for the task in hand in the muddy conditions.

Early on the speed of Bellamy and the strength and guile of Alan Shearer proved just as troublesome as the difficult pitch.

On 12 minutes John Arne Riise felled Shearer and from the free-kick, Kirkland was only able to get a hand to Robert's deflected free kick.

Newcastle's Clarence Acuna holds off Liverpool's Igor Biscan
Liverpool began 2003 in miserable fashion

Kirkland had more luck when Clarence Acuna and Bellamy exchanged passes and the Liverpool keeper did well to save the Chilean's shot with his legs.

Just before the interval a ferocious Alan Shearer free-kick also went narrowly wide.

It took over half an hour before Liverpool tested Shay Given, Steven Gerrard bursting forward and then sending in a low shot.

Andy Griffin also did well to clear a low cross from Gerrard as Bruno Cheyrou threatened.

It will be difficult to catch up with Arsenal

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier

Immediately after the restart Baros was slow to react after Diao headed the ball to the Czech Republic striker.

It was symptomatic of Liverpool's failings in attack that Houllier withdrew Baros soon after that to give Neil Mellor his Premiership debut.

Displaying a good deal more enthusiasm than some of his other more senior colleagues, Mellor immediately tested Given with a header and then a shot.

Newcastle were less potent as an attacking force in that second period, with a fierce Robert drive and a Shearer free kick the best of the chances they created.


Newcastle: Given, Griffin, Bernard, O'Brien, Hughes, Robert, Jenas, Acuna (Elliott 73), Kerr (Ameobi 73), Shearer, Bellamy.
Subs Not Used: Harper, LuaLua, Dabizas.

Booked: Jenas. Liverpool: Kirkland, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise, Biscan, Gerrard, Diao, Cheyrou (Smicer 58), Baros (Mellor 55), Diouf (Vignal 79).
Subs Not Used: Arphexad, Traore.

Sent Off: Diao (66).

Booked: Gerrard, Diao, Diouf.

Attendance: 52,147.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's David Oates
"This is Liverpool's worst top flight run for 80 years"
 Newcastle boss Bobby Robson
"I'm sure Liverpool's form will improve"
 Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"It will be difficult to catch Arsenal"
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