Craig Bellamy bagged a brace and Steven Gerrard was also on the scoresheet as Liverpool boosted their bid for a top four finish with a 3-1 win over Newcastle United at Anfield on Friday.
Kenny Dalglish’s side trailed to Daniel Agger’s own goal midway through the first half, but Bellamy equalized soon after and the former Newcastle striker netted again from a free-kick in the second half.
England midfielder Gerrard, who has missed most of the season because of injury, capped a fine cameo performance from the substitutes bench with his side’s third goal.
Liverpool are now in fifth place, level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea, while Newcastle remain seventh after another failed trip to Anfield.
Gerrard expressed his delight at being able to play again and didn’t want to dwell on the past.
“It’s good to be back. I’ve had a terrible year with a lot of injuries, but I just want to look forward,” Gerrard told Sky Sports 1. “I’m delighted to be back with the lads today, to get on the scoresheet and get three points was a perfect return. It’s great to be back.”
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said the second goal had decided the match, but was full of praise for his players and their campaign so far.
“We’ve done brilliant, we’ve got some very good players and we’ve had a really, really good calendar year,” Pardew said.
“We need to take that now into next year, and if we do anything like this last year, we may surprise ourselves and the opposition in the league. We’re still in a good position even though we were beaten tonight,” he said.
All eyes were on misfiring Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who has struggled for goals since completing a ￡35 million (US$54.3 million) move from Newcastle in January.
With Uruguay striker Luis Suarez suspended, Carroll was charged with leading Liverpool’s attack, yet the 22-year-old had not found the net in a Liverpool shirt for almost seven hours.
Pressure had been growing on Liverpool after their failure to kill off teams at home threatened to cost them a top-four finish.
However, they travel to leaders Manchester City on Tuesday with hopes of securing a place in next season’s Champions League very much alive.
Just as they did against bottom-of-the-table Blackburn Rovers on Monday, Liverpool were forced to come from behind despite making the brighter start.
Newcastle took the lead in the 25th minute when Yohan Cabaye’s flick, following Ryan Taylor’s cross from the left, deflected off Agger’s shoulder and flew past Pepe Reina.
It was Newcastle’s first top-flight goal at Anfield since Patrick Kluivert scored in a 3-1 defeat in 2004.
Yet their lead lasted just five minutes as Bellamy seized on Cheik Tiote’s half clearance to find the net from 12m after smashing the ball through a sea of legs.
Martin Skrtel then flashed a header narrowly wide before Newcastle were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men after Cabaye’s ugly challenge on Jay Spearing.
With more than half an hour to go, Dalglish sent on Gerrard and it was Liverpool’s captain who proved the difference between the two teams in the end.
Within moments of his introduction he teed-up Carroll with a pin-point cross only for the striker to lose control of the ball after a shocking first touch.
However, Carroll played his part in Bellamy’s second from a 25m free-kick as Liverpool made it 2-1 in the 67th minute.