Ayoze Perez scored the winner for Newcastle United for the second Barclays Premier League match running as Liverpool were beaten 1-0 on Saturday.
The Spaniard netted the decisive goal in the 2-1 triumph at Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday and came off the bench at St James' Park to earn Newcastle's fourth win in a row in all competitions and move them to within a point of Liverpool.
The Barclays Premier League's highest-scoring fixture, having yielded 129 goals before this meeting, looked set to be heading for a goalless draw until Perez's 73rd-minute strike, which condemned the visitors to their fourth top-flight defeat of the season.
Both clubs progressed to the League Cup quarter-finals in midweek, with Newcastle having further alleviated the pressure on manager Alan Pardew by producing a shock 2-0 success over holders Manchester City. There were two much-changed sides who lined up on Saturday and Pardew reaped the rewards from having rested several key players for Wednesday's trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Pardew admitted that the weakened team he named against City was a nod towards the importance of this fixture, with five players, Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Moussa Sissoko, Sammy Ameobi and Papiss Cisse, returning, while Mehdi Abeid earned a Barclays Premier League debut. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers also made numerous changes from the League Cup success over Swansea City, and Mario Balotelli was rewarded for his equalising goal off the bench in that 2-1 triumph as the Italian was handed a start, with Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling coming back into the side.
The hosts had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Andre Marriner in the 10th minute when Sissoko went to ground under a challenge from Joe Allen. Newcastle suffered a blow midway through the half when Gabriel Obertan, scorer of the winning goal in his side's last home match against Leicester City, pulled up while chasing a long ball down the right, with Rolando Aarons introduced in his place.
Liverpool survived a scare late in the half when Cisse's goalbound shot was headed away by Glen Johnson, while Martin Skrtel headed Gerrard's corner wide from eight yards at the other end.
Cisse did not return for the second half as Perez was brought on to add fresh impetus to Newcastle's attack, with that change ultimately proving crucial. Tempers flared on the hour when Daryl Janmaat upended Balotelli and was awarded a yellow card. Liverpool’s Fabio Borini threatened with a powerful low strike from the edge of the area two minutes after coming off the bench, but it was Perez who made the breakthrough. Sissoko's cross was not dealt with by Alberto Moreno and Perez was on hand to fire the ball home.
A rapid breakaway almost led to a second when Remy Cabella and Perez linked well, but the Frenchman's effort was kept out by the right foot of Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool offered little in the closing stages and gave Rodgers plenty to ponder.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "I'm proud of the boys. Liverpool threw me because I wasn't expecting them to play three at the back, but the back four were very strong - Paul Dummett was outstanding.
"We have pace and discipline - we've got a juvenile spirit about us. And Ayoze [Perez] has just got a knack of being in the right place.
"[Gabriel Obertan's injury] is a blow because he has been outstanding and it looks like he's got a bad injury."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "We were punished for a mistake and that is what cost us the game. We passed the ball well. The options in front of the ball were good but we probably lacked that little bit in the final third of the field. We did not create as much as we would have liked.
"It is not about Mario Balotelli, it is about the team. We lost the game today. We collectively lost as a team and we are disappointed at that."
|22 Nov 2014||v QPR (H)|
|09 Nov 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|29 Nov 2014||v West Ham (A)|
|02 Dec 2014||v Burnley (A)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Chelsea (H)|
|13 Dec 2014||v Arsenal (A)|