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Last Updated: Monday, 26 December 2005, 16:52 GMT
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle
Liverpool celebrate
Newcastle striker Michael Owen's return to old club Liverpool ended in defeat, with Lee Bowyer also being red-carded to compound the visitors' misery.

Steven Gerrard put the home side ahead when he burst through the Magpies defence and drove home a rising shot.

A Peter Crouch header hit the post and squirmed in off keeper Shay Given for the Reds' second goal as Newcastle and a below-par Owen struggled for form.

Bowyer was harshly sent off after 66 minutes for a tackle on Xabi Alonso.

There was much made of Owen's return to his former hunting ground but he was a virtual spectator as a vibrant Liverpool dominated from the start.

The Reds showed no ill-effects from their recent Club World Championship trip to Japan as Fernando Morientes weaved his way into the Newcastle box before seeing his shot saved by a sprawling Given.

Michael Owen
Owen got little change from the stubborn Reds defence

A fantastic instinctive save by the Magpies keeper then denied Harry Kewell from close range as the visitors failed to deal with a Liverpool side attacking from all angles.

Given was finally beaten when Crouch laid a ball into the path of a rampaging Gerrard, who wrong-footed the Newcastle defence by feigning a shot before powering home.

Newcastle were dealt a blow when Steven Taylor - returning after a lengthy lay-off with a shoulder injury - suffered a similar injury after falling awkwardly.

The visitors rarely threatened but when they did, John Arne Riise cleared a Albert Luque cross from the Liverpool goalmouth before keeper Jose Reina parried a speculative Charles N'Zogbia shot.

Liverpool were clearly superior and they added a second through Given's unfortunate own goal.

Ironically, Owen would have revelled in chances being created by the home side, while Liverpool may have been further ahead with a striker as clinical as him in attack.

The Reds were angered shortly after the break when they were denied a penalty after they thought a Morientes header had been blocked by the arm of Nolberto Solano on the line.

But Liverpool were comfortable against a disappointing Newcastle side and the main talking point of the second half came when Bowyer was sent off.

His late challenge on Alonso led to players from both sides clashing - with Crouch shoving Bowyer to the floor in the melee.

The Newcastle midfielder was dismissed, while Crouch escaped with a yellow card as Liverpool secured an eighth win and clean sheet in the Premiership on the trot.


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:

"The team is working really hard in defence.

"We are also creating opportunities in attack and we have at this moment the balance that we were looking for.

"It would be really important for us if we can keep this going."

Newcastle keeper Shay Given:
"We didn't play well and I think the better team won.  

"Liverpool, especially in the first half, really came at us and we were on the backfoot from the first minute.  

"We just have to forget about it and move on to Wednesday's game against Charlton and it is important we bounce back, especially at home."


Liverpool: Reina, Finnan (Josemi 78), Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Sinama Pongolle 67), Crouch (Cisse 72), Morientes.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Warnock.

Booked: Crouch.

Goals: Gerrard 14, Given 43 og.

Newcastle: Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Taylor (Bramble 28), Babayaro, Bowyer, Faye, N'Zogbia (Solano 45), Luque (Ameobi 86), Shearer, Owen.
Subs Not Used: Elliott, Harper.

Sent Off: Bowyer (66).

Att: 44,197

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez


Interview: Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given


Interview: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard



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