Newcastle 3 // Liverpool 1
Newcastle Nolan 15’, Barton 80’ Carroll 90+1’
Liverpool Kuyt 49’
Man of the match Joey Barton (Newcastle)
NEWCASTLE // There have been moments when Mike Ashley has recognised his shortcomings as an owner of a football club. Sadly for Newcastle United, there have been many more when he has demonstrated them.
It is as if the Londoner is engaged some kind of self-destructive game, entitled 'How to infuriate the maximum number of people at one time?'
Sack the manager who took Newcastle back to the Premier League with a record point tally? That'll wind up the players and the punters. He's one of the nicest men in football? Good, I'll get everyone else in the game going, too.
Hand a five-and-a-half year deal to a coach punted from his last three clubs after getting two of them relegated? No one can beat me at this.
Back in the Premier League after three years in which his career has head in a generally southern direction, even Alan Pardew questioned the sanity of succeeding Chris Hughton last week.
Yesterday his new team took three points from a madcap meeting with Liverpool yet it will be a surprise if there are not messier times ahead.
There may come a day when Pardew pens a column on his spell as the sixth manager of Ashley's three-and-half-year stewardship of St James' Park. If he does it will do well to match the excoriation delivered by the owner's first appointment to the position.
"I do not understand the decision to get rid of Chris," wrote Kevin Keegan, who had a second spell in charge of the club in 2008.
"I lived with the same people for eight months - I didn't understand them then and I don't understand them now, and I don't think many of the fans do. When a man buys a club like Mike Ashley did, and he knows as little about football as he does, he is likely to make these sort of mistakes and these sort of judgements, and still think he's doing okay."
Keegan lasted eight months in the job, Pardew's strategy to survive beyond that involves taking Wally Downes from West Ham United and Ray Lewington from Fulham as assistants.
Yesterday, he handled the dressing room by standing fast to Hughton's blueprint. Returning from injuries, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton were the only changes to the eleven that lost at West Brom last weekend - both simple reinstatements.
As fans barracked the attending Ashley and unveiled banners thanking Hughton, his successor kept himself discreetly ensconced in the snow-covered dugout. Newcastle's football was of the meat-and-potatoes variety.
When Liverpool had possession, the home side filed back into their own half of the field to defend. When the ball was gained by opposition error or a tackle it was generally directed swiftly up to towering forward Andy Carroll. Hardly pretty, yet effective enough.
On the quarter-hour mark, Sotiris Kyriagkos bundled through the back of Carroll, conceding a 30-yard free kick. Barton chipped the dead ball to the left-hand side of Liverpool's area where Carroll out-leaped Martin Skrtel to head the ball square for Nolan.
Judging the offside line perfectly, Newcastle's captain swept home eliciting barely a flicker of emotion from Pardew. From Ashley there was a bear hug for a female companion.
Liverpool's equaliser, just after the break, was embarrassingly messy. Sol Campbell turned his back on a through ball, allowing it to bounce off his back to Dirk Kuyt. The winger shuffled away from Jose Enrique and slapped a weak shot at goal. Steven Taylor's intervention was sufficient to deflect it past keeper Tim Krul.
Worse almost followed as Fernando Torres emerged behind Campbell to have one shot smartly saved by the keeper, then spun another a foot past the post.
Newcastle's winner came via a familiar route. Long ball to Carroll, headed on toward the box, where Nile Ranger and the dominant Barton forced it on and into the net. In injury time the bullish striker drove a third beyond Pepe Reina to seal a much-needed win.