By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back to May 2009 with the Premier League season coming to a close. Liverpool face Newcastle United and need a team from Manchester to drop points if they are to stand any chance of winning the title. Sound familiar?
On May 3, 2009, Liverpool hosted a struggling Newcastle at Anfield. With four games to go, the title was still a possibility, but only if Manchester United dropped points. Fast forward ten years and Liverpool travel to St. James’ Park on May 4 needing Manchester City to drop points to put the race for the title back in their hands.
On the day, Newcastle started strongly, not allowing Liverpool any time or space. The Magpies uncharacteristically dominated the midfield, with Steven Gerrard – returning after five games out injured – Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano struggling to stamp their usual authority on proceedings.
Liverpool’s struggles didn’t last long though with Yossi Benayoun opening the scoring, despite a hint of offside. Six minutes later, fan favourite Dirk Kuyt doubled the red’s lead with a characteristically committed diving header.
A deflated Newcastle never got back into the game and were lucky to not concede again with Alonso hitting the bar twice with two superb strikes. As the match neared its finish, Joey Barton, in his constant search for attention, rashly slid into the back of Alonso and was immediately shown a red card by referee Phil Dowd. Alonso was stretchered off, and Mascherano followed him into the physio’s room when he hobbled off the field a few minutes later.
Liverpool’s superiority was clear and, with three minutes to go, Lucas Leiva, the only man less likely than Pepe Reina to score, headed in from a Fabio Aurelio free kick. The Brazilian only scored seven times in his ten seasons at the club, but the 2008/09 season was his most prolific with a mighty three goals.
This result put Liverpool within three points of United having played a game more. Despite the Red Devils drawing at home to Arsenal and Liverpool winning their remaining three games, United ended the season as champions beating Liverpool by four points.
Although they were three points from safety after the Liverpool match, Newcastle’s poor form continued, and at the end of the season were relegated to the championship, finishing 18th, one point behind Hull City.
The man in charge of Liverpool that day, Rafael Benitez, is now in charge of Newcastle, who sit in 13th and comfortably safe from relegation. Despite the strong links, Benitez has made it clear that his Newcastle side won’t do Liverpool any favours come Saturday. The Spaniard is still widely loved by Liverpool fans and, although they may not remember May 3rd specifically, his 2008/2009 campaign is burnt into the fanbase’s memory.
Liverpool accrued their highest ever points tally for a premier league season in 2008/09, with a total of 86 points. In the present day, the Reds have surpassed that total and sit on a staggering 91 points.
With Newcastle’s current form very hit and miss, the Anfield club will be hoping for a repeat of 2009’s scoreline but praying that this time the three points is vital in bringing the title back to Merseyside.