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Bitter-sweet end for Liverpool

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Reuters

Liverpool's bid to snatch the Premier League title on the final day of the season ended in frustration despite a 2-1 win over nine-man Newcastle.Photo by: Phil Noble/Reuters

Liverpool's bid to snatch the Premier League title on the final day of the season ended in frustration despite a 2-1 win over nine-man Newcastle on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers' side needed to beat the Magpies at Anfield and hope West Ham could upset leaders Manchester City at Eastlands if they were to land the English league crown for the first time since 1990.

But, although they came from behind to win, Liverpool were left with an empty feeling as City cruised to a 2-0 victory that guaranteed they would finish two points ahead of the second placed Reds.

In the end, Liverpool were left to rue the costly mistakes that realistically meant their fate had already been sealed by a defeat against Chelsea and a draw at Crystal Palace in their previous two games.

When Newcastle deservedly led with more than an hour gone through Martin Skrtel's first half own-goal it looked as though Liverpool's challenge would end in even further anti-climax.

But Rodgers insisted his team should feel nothing but pride from a campaign in which he described their progress as “nothing short of outstanding”.

And Liverpool responded one more time to score twice in as many minutes to sign off with a 16th home win as Newcastle finished in disarray following the double sending-off of Shola Ameobi and Paul Dummett.

Daniel Agger forced home the equaliser and from another Steven Gerrard free-kick Daniel Sturridge tapped home the winner.

Under-fire Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is due to meet club owner Mike Ashley now the season has ended to discuss the future, but at least his troubled team did not follow the anticipated script by meekly surrendering on the final day.

Right from the start they made life difficult for a nervy Liverpool team with lone striker Ameobi carrying an aerial threat.

Liverpool showed none of the early spark that had epitomised many of their previous home successes and although Luis Suarez had the ball in the net after 18 minutes his effort, from a free-kick taken with the ball rolling before referee Phil Dowd had given the go-ahead, was never likely to stand.

And within moments Newcastle were in front as Liverpool's faint title prospects appeared to recede even further.

Massadio Haidara and Yoan Gouffran combined well down the left and when Gouffran crossed, Skrtel, at full stretch, diverted the ball into his own net.

Things could have got worse as Gouffran then wasted two further chances to put Newcastle further ahead.

Ameobi created the openings on each occasion but Gouffran was first denied by Simon Mignolet and then failed to make clean contact when again in behind the Reds' fragile defence.

Suarez cleverly made a chance for himself which wasn't matched by the finish as he looked for his 32nd goal of the season to break the 38-game Premier League record shared by Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer.

News of City's opening goal against West Ham filtered through and the mood remained gloomy when Sturridge then headed wide from Jordan Henderson's cross.

But Rodgers' team stayed the course in the title race better than many had expected and they found the reserves to finish on a high with two quick-fire goals to transform their afternoon as they went past a century of league goals for the season.

Both times Gerrard was the creator with superbly delivered free-kicks which proved undefendable for Newcastle.

The first was steered home on the volley by Denmark defender Agger in the 63rd minute and when Gerrard whipped the ball in again two minutes later, England striker Sturridge timed his run perfectly to side-foot home his 25th goal of the season.

Ameobi then spoiled all his good work by arguing with Dowd, who showed the striker two yellow cards in quick succession before giving Dummett a straight red for a foul on Suarez three minutes from the end. – AFP


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