LIVERPOOL 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers last night vowed to speak to Raheem Sterling after footage emerged appearing to show the England forward taking nitrous oxide, the legal high also known as laughing gas.
Sterling’s off-field controversy marred an otherwise good night for player and club, as his 11th goal of the season, allied to Joe Allen’s strike, thrust the Reds back into the Champions League hunt.
A comprehensive if at times laboured victory over a rudderless Newcastle side reduced to 10 men by Moussa Sissoko’s late red card lifted Liverpool to fifth in the Premier League, just four points behind Manchester City.
“He is a young kid who is in the spotlight now. He knows the demands of being a top class player and professional, both on off the field. I will speak with him about and we will move on,” said Rodgers.
“We knew we had to win. City have maybe opened the door for teams below. If we win our games and perform well we’ll see what happens. There are still so many twists yet.”
Liverpool started like a team determined to seize the Champions League lifeline offered by City’s late-season collapse and defeat to Manchester United on Sunday, and instantly swarmed over the visitors.
Sterling, who showed few signs of being affected by his contract stand-off or negative headlines about his alleged off-field behaviour, took just nine minutes to open the scoring with a flourish.
Having peeled away, the 20-year-old gathered Jordan Henderson’s diagonal pass and jinked in from the left past two challenges before digging a shot out from under his feet and round Tim Krul into the far corner.
The rampant hosts should have killed off ragged Newcastle before half-time, but man-of-the-match Philippe Coutinho wasted a self-made opening and Krul tipped a Lucas header round the post.
Liverpool’s wastefulness should have been punished in the dying stages of the first half, yet referee Lee Mason refused to give a penalty when Dejan Lovren hacked Ayoze Perez, while the Spanish forward saw an adroit header repelled by Simon Mignolet.
Sterling missed a sitter, tapping wide from point-blank range with just Krul to beat, before Allen beat the Dutchman with a poked half-volley after Mike Williamson’s attempted clearance backfired.