Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Night Football Review: Liverpool makes its case for the top four

Liverpool 1-0 Newcastle

As always for this time of year, Liverpool delivered a touching tribute to the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. The Reds' faithful singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" is always bone chilling, but it goes to another level for this tribute every year.

As for the match. Liverpool were in control right from the start, Raheem Sterling put them in front nice and early with a seeing eye lob through a few Newcastle defenders in the 9th minute. He was set up with a great cross-pitch feed from Jordan Henderson. Sterling had a pristine chance at a second in the 22nd when Alberto Moreno fed him across the open goal, but the pass was a yard or two in front of the waiting Liverpool attacker.

Newcastle's early attacks were rare and over with quickly, but they picked up the intensity after the opening half hour. They could have earned themselves a penalty, however, in the 37th minute after Ayoze Perez was brought down in the box with no whistle. They also nearly equalized when Perez flicked a perfect header towards the top corner that Simon Mignolet barely got a finger to.

Thinks picked up a bit for Newcastle in the second half, but it was still Liverpool with the better chances. Raheem Sterling will wonder how he didn't have a hat trick in this game. On the stroke of 56 minutes, he was alone against Tim Krul on the edge of the six yard box and rolled his shot a yard wide. Jordan Allen made sure that miss didn't come back to haunt the home side by scoring in the 70th minute with a most determined effort.

Newcastle pretty much gave up at that point. Moussa Sissoko managed two yellow cards in five minutes to get himself sent off, and the result was set.

The win puts Liverpool within striking distance of a severely slumping Manchester City. What seemed like a crystal clear top four picture is now being clouded up once again as Liverpool surges towards the Citizens. Liverpool is four back and, other than Chelsea on the road, as a pretty easy final six matches. City's remaining six aren't much more difficult, but the way they have been playing lately suggests they might just complete this epic collapse from glory.

It will be interesting to watch things for the last month of the season. Can Liverpool turn things around and back into the Champions League? Or will City recover and hang on to their spot in Europe? We also can't forget Southampton, who are only five points back of the blue side of Manchester, and the two face off on the season's final day.

My prediction? Liverpool storms ahead, City finishes its demise, and the Reds have a spot in Europe next season.

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