Sterling – from sublime to inexplicable

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Sterling faces another awkward conversation with his manager Brendan Rodgers and can reflect on a night on the field that saw him at his very best and indeed his worst.

Sterling’s goal to set up victory in a game that Liverpool dominated for 35 minutes but then threatened to throw away with a belter. Receiving possession on the left side of the penalty area in the ninth minute, he stepped inside two defenders and found the far corner rather majestically.

In the second half, however, the 20-year-old endured a moment he would rather forget but probably won’t be allowed to.

With his team wobbling a little having missed earlier chances, Liverpool broke down the right with Jordan Henderson and when the ball reached Sterling unmarked at the far post it appeared he couldn’t possibly miss.

He did, however, contributing a feeble shot wide from six yards that on another day would have prompted Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul to offer him a high five in the tunnel.

Fortunately for Sterling his error didn’t ultimately matter. Liverpool’s impressive early work, and Joe Allen’s goal on 70 minutes, were enough to see off a Newcastle team whose improvement saw them create and fail to take a smattering of chances either side of half-time.

Brendan Rodgers and his team now face an FA Cup semi-final with Aston Villa on Sunday and will approach it knowing that their Barclays Premier League season is still not necessarily dead.

A team who actually made one of the league’s worst current teams — Sunderland — look decent just nine days ago, Newcastle have grown ever more compliant the longer their time with John Carver at the helm has gone on. As such, it was no surprise to see Liverpool take the lead so early.

It has, it must be said, been a while since we have seen something as lovely to watch at Anfield as this. Since Liverpool beat City with two superb Philippe Coutinho goals here on March 1, their football has been relatively sluggish. Here they swarmed all over Newcastle and were ahead in the ninth minute.

Captain Henderson supplied the ammunition for Sterling with a crossfield pass struck arrow straight to his team-mate over 40 yards. Sterling’s first touch was perfect but then we expect that in the Premier League these days.

What followed was even better, though, as he eased inside Ryan Taylor and Daryl Janmaat before striking a perfect right-foot shot to Krul’s left with his instep.

With centre forward Daniel Sturridge injured again last night, Sterling once again was crucial to Liverpool’s attacking play. This time he was stationed on the left of a front three that featured Jordan Ibe on the right and Coutinho through the middle.

As he often is, Coutinho was terrific early on. Newcastle couldn’t cope with his dexterity or his movement and intelligence. On this occasion, all that was missing was a finish in front of goal.

The excellent Krul was busy in the early stages. His save at the near post from an Alberto Moreno shot was routine in the 13th minute but 10 minutes later he was no doubt relieved to see Coutinho’s low cross evade everybody in red when his turn on the right had actually been good enough and timely enough to place him in a position to shoot.

Soon after a Sterling cross-shot from the other side was gathered by the Newcastle keeper and then Henderson’s quick free-kick caught Newcastle asleep, only for Coutinho’s effort to come back from a defender.

At this stage, with almost half an hour gone, Liverpool were in complete control. It had been their most assertive 30 minutes of football for a while. All teams are vulnerable if they don’t turn possession and chances into goals, however, and sure enough Newcastle began to find their way into the game towards the end of the half.

The Algerian midfielder Mehdi Abeid marked his first appearance since early March with a smart volley from 18 yards that brought a save from Simon Mignolet. Then, with some confidence restored, Ayoze Perez should have been awarded a penalty following a clear foul by Dejan Lovren and the same player then brought a first-class save from the Liverpool goalkeeper with a header towards the top corner.

Indeed, the half ended with a shot over the bar from Abeid. The 22-year-old probably should have scored and a half that had been one-sided for so long actually ended with a slightly different feel to it.

The shift was noticeable after the restart too. Mignolet did well to punch clear from a corner, Lovren threatened to put his colleague Emre Can out of the game by landing on his foot before Abeid drove another low shot towards goal.

Sterling, of course, could have settled the whole thing when Henderson and a failed clearance from Ryan Taylor presented him with the easiest chance of his career in the 57th minute. One day he may be able to tell us exactly how he managed to miss.

Allen’s drive into the roof of Krul’s net on 70 minutes finally eased the anxiety spreading around Anfield.

Newcastle’s hopes took a further decline when Moussa Sissoko was sent off for a second yellow received for a desperate challenge on Lucas.– Daily Mail

Original source: Sterling - from sublime to inexplicable

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