Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Souness Gets It All So Badly Wrong

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Souness Gets It All So Badly Wrong

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

The emotional afternoon on which Michael Owen returned to Anfield for the first time since leaving Liverpool 14 months ago was supposed to be one of the most poignant occasions of the Premiership season.

This had been earmarked as the striker's finest hour in a black-and-white shirt. That it was perhaps the darkest day of Newcastle's inconsistent campaign was etched on his face as he trudged off the pitch he once graced with his goals.

The visitors outclassed from first whistle to last; Lee Bowyer dismissed in front of the Kop for the second time in 12 months; Steven Taylor suffering a major injury: this was a haunting experience Owen will be desperate to put behind him.

Rarely given a kick by his former team-mates, taunted by the fans who once lauded his talents, the striker's discomfort was apparent. He was not alone.

The Magpies managed one shot on target and, but for the brilliance of Shay Given, could have lost by a huge margin.

Graeme Souness admitted his side had been "poor" and "overrun". and as Owen wandered into the visitors' dressing room, he must have viewed his decision to quit the Merseyside club last year with regret.

While United's players will carry the can, Souness' performance must be considered when the inquests continue this morning.

The Magpies boss paid a high price for his decision to reintroduce Taylor ahead of schedule. The defender now faces surgery and three months on the sidelines.

Did he really need to make five changes to a team buoyant after back-to-back victories? Was it wise to field Charles N'Zogbia in central midfield?

If Souness had resisted the temptation to tinker, Taylor would be unharmed, Bowyer would not be facing suspension and his side might not have been so humiliated by a rampant Liverpool.

During an opening burst of purpose and menace, the home team proved that their talents are not restricted to defensive defiance. Newcastle were outclassed by a Liverpool side bursting with striking threat, their slick passing and positive play putting Given's goal under siege.

The talented Irishman was determined not to be beaten, but with a fragile defence in front of him, it was only a matter of time.

Given spared the blushes of Taylor and Jean-Alain Boumsong, racing from his line to thwart the onrushing Fernando Morientes, and produced arguably his finest save of another season of personal achievement with a brilliant one-handed stop to keep out Harry Kewell's close-range volley.

The latter save was implausibly good; that United's keeper had twice been forced to demonstrate his talents inside the first five minutes did not bode well and with the vast majority of the game contested inside Newcastle territory, Owen was a peripheral figure. …

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