Liverpool routs Newcastle 6-0 as Suarez ban begins
NEWCASTLE, England (AP)
Liverpool showed it has plenty of attacking options even without Luis Suarez by routing 10-man Newcastle 6-0 in the English Premier League on Saturday as the striker started a 10-match ban for biting an opponent.
Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson each scored twice, while Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini also found the net in a dazzling display that shifted the spotlight away from the club's battle with the football authorities over Suarez's ban.
Suarez was accused of damaging the image of English football by sinking his teeth into Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a match last Sunday.
Liverpool and the Uruguay striker, who was banned for eight matches last season for racist abuse, reluctantly accepted the latest hefty sanction after disputing the length of the ban.
The win lifted Liverpool's spirits but not its position in the standings, where it remains seventh.
''We move on from that (Suarez bite), we don't want to keep bringing it up,'' Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. ''He is suspended for 10 games. My plan is to keep him fit and working and there is a plan. It was a real test for us today ... Luis has been brilliant, we can only move forward with the players we have.
''As you have seen today our focus and job at hand was fantastic.''
Newcastle is just two places and five points above the drop zone, and never looked like taking anything from this match after Agger headed in the first goal inside three minutes.
Agger took advantage of slack defending to run unmarked on to Stewart Downing's lofted cross and head past the helpless Rob Elliot.
''It was a terrific start, we were very aggressive, the pressing was very good,'' Rodgers said.
Newcastle was woeful as it conceded space to Liverpool in the middle of the field despite employing James Perch and Cheick Tiote in front of the back four to allow the excellent Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge to dominate the game.
Liverpool doubled its lead in the 17th after mounting a flowing attack which left Newcastle floundering again. Coutinho slide the ball into Sturridge's path for him to square for Henderson.
Newcastle had little or no penetration as lone striker Papiss Cisse was starved of possession with Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko becalmed by a sea of red shirts.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew made a double change at half time, replacing James Perch and Jonas Gutierrez with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran, knowing his side needed something different - and fast.
Gouffran might have obliged within four minutes of the second half when he got his head to Cabaye's cross, but his looping header was easily collected by goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
The balance of the game had changed as Newcastle poured forward and started to find space in advanced areas, although Cabaye passed up a glorious chance after miscontrolling on the edge of the box.
But the game was effectively over in the 54th when Ben Arfa was robbed by Coutinho wide on the right and sped forward to slide in Sturridge, who blasted past Elliot.
?''Daniel Sturridge can prove to be one of the top strikers in Europe in the next three years, he needs an opportunity,'' Rodgers said. ''You can see his strength, his speed his power and his finishing as well.''
Things were to get much, much worse for the Magpies.
They were carved open once again when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second on the hour.
The rout was far from complete.
Borini found the back of the net in the 74th on his return from injury as a substitute when he converted Downing's cross, and Henderson sent a 76th-minute free-kick across Elliot and into the bottom corner.
Within seconds Mathieu Debuchy was sent off after receiving a second yellow for a foul on Coutinho, and only a fine save by Elliot denied Coutinho a seventh goal.
Newcastle's humiliation was already complete by that stage.
''It was an awful performance by us,'' Pardew said. ''We have to do something about that for next week. We have to stick together now we have to get ourselves disciplined ... we have three games to go to put it right. We need four points to make sure we are safe.''