Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 0 (Half-time 1-0)

Raheem Sterling may not be flavour of the month with many of the fans on Merseyside at present as his contract negotiations seem to be stalling, but he justified manager Brendan Rodgers' belief in him with another sublime goal last night to help lift Liverpool back up to fifth in the Premier League. The Reds were in cruise control for much of the night but had to wait until a second-half strike from Welsh international Joe Allen before they could be certain of all three points. Newcastle offered little in offence apart from a spell just before half-time, when they could have been awarded a penalty.

Liverpool now trail Manchester City by just four points in their chase for the final Champions League place afforded to English clubs, although City have a vastly superior goal difference which could yet prove vital.

Sterling has been in the news again this week, not only for the ongoing efforts to secure his future at Anfield, but also for an incident where it has been alleged that he took nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Rodgers has condemned such behaviour but would have been delighted with the form his international player is displaying on the field at present. Sterling's goal at 9 minutes against Newcastle yesterday was worthy of comparison with the greats of world Football, as his instant control of Jordan Henderson's cross field pass and quick feet carved out an opportunity that he curved delightfully past Tim Krul with little or no backlift to his right foot strike.

With the early goal secured, the home side began to dominate the first-half and threatened to open up the visitors on several occasions with their fluid formation, yet a crucial second goal was not forthcoming before the break. It was indicative of their season in many ways, with striker Daniel Sturridge again missing through injury they instead had players taking it in turns to run from deep, but that can't mask the fact that they are 39 goals down on where they were last season at the same time.

Newcastle seemed to weather the storm and began to create a few half chances of their own. They could and perhaps should have had a penalty when Dejan Lovren swung wildly at the ball and seemed to connect with Ayoze Perez in the area. Referee Lee Mason clearly decided that there was insufficient contact to merit the spot-kick which incensed John Carver on the sidelines for the North-East club.

At least United went into the interval promising better things for their fans in the second period, as they sought to avoid a fifth straight defeat in the league.

The home side resumed their pursuit of a second goal after the break and their fans were finally rewarded for their patience with just twenty minutes remaining. A cross into the box broke kindly for Allen and he smashed the ball past Krul. To compound Carver's misery United had Moussa Sissoko sent off for a second yellow card before the final whistle, as the French international made a hefty challenge on Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian was thankfully able to recover from the tackle. It allowed Liverpool to see out the remaining minutes with few concerns and confirm a much needed victory, after successive league defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal.

There was a poignant moment before the match, when the Hillsborough disaster victims were remembered with a minute's silence to mark the 26th anniversary of the tragic incident.