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Liverpool v Newcastle 1996:Best Premiership match ever?

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I feel sorry for the Sky TV team sometimes. They are always trying to hype their games with pulsating promo's and sexy adjectives, but when it comes down to it, its hard to get turned on by Sunderland v Villa or the like.

There have been many occasions when the hyperbole has been justified but perhaps the most noteable example came 10 years ago yesterday when Liverpool took on Newcastle at Anfield.

The game was big even before the match kicked off. Newcastle were still fighting for the title but were going through their dire spell,picking up only 4 points from their last 5 games causing them to be overtaken by Man Utd, and Liverpool still nursed faint title hopes.

The sides lined up as follows:

LIVERPOOL (3-5-2): James,Wright(Harkness, 46),Scales, Ruddock,McAteer,Redknapp,Barnes,McManaman,Jones(Rush, 86) Fowler,Collymore.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2):Srnicek,Watson,Howey (Peacock,82),Albert,Beresford,Beardsley,Lee,Batty,Ginola,Ferdinand,Asprilla.

The encounter shot out the opening traps with Robbie Fowler scoring with only 2 minutes on the clock.Many teams would see this as a body blow but Newcastle went straight into their task equalising through Les Ferdinand in the 10th minute and taking the lead through David Ginola 2 minutes later. The frentic first half ended with the Toon at a 2-1 advantage but the drama and excitement was far from over.

10 minutes into the second half and the perennial threat Fowler drew the reds level. Anything you can do, we can do better seemed to be the games motif and just two minutes later the livewire Columbian Tino Asprilla smashed Newcastle back in the lead. Hearts were certainly in mouths as Stan Collymore hit the 6th goal of the game in the 68th minute to put the game at 3-3. As normal time came to a close, it appeared to be honours even but there was one final sting in the tail.John Barnes and Ian Rush exchanged a series of one-twos outside the box and in the words of Martin Tyler "Rush,Barnes,Rush,Barnes, still John Barnes, Collymore closing IN!".

The images that followed became synomous with Keegan,title races and drama. Collymore wheeling away in delight and amazement as Keegan slumped despondendtly over the advertising hordings.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to come out of the titanic encounter was how many of the nights glittering stars failed to fufill their potentials. Stan Collymore went on a downward spiral after leaving Liverpool in 1997 and Robbie Fowler was never the same after Houllier arrived as Liverpool manager. A similar story occured with Newcastle, Tino Asprilla proved too tricky for his own good and left in January 1998, most remembered as changing Newcastle's winning formula and disrupting the balance to let Man Utd seize control, while David Ginola was the bright spark in very dark days at Spurs before becoming a joke at Aston Villa and Everton. In addition, players such Steve Howey, Rob Jones and Jamie Redknapp never lived up to their hype.

But was this the best Premiership game ever? In my opinion it was. Normally when writing an article,like the SKY Tv gurus, I have to attempt to embellish the subject to make it more readable and exciting. Writing about this match required no effort at all.

Sam Cullen
April 2 2006


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