A question of assets and spirit

It's jubilation time in the Liverpool camp after Fernando Torres slots in the team's second goal against Newcastle.-AP

The splendid understanding between Gerrard and Torres reflected in Liverpool's unquestioned superiority, writes Andy Hunter.

One has an owner so unpopular his relatives cannot enter a public house without compromising their safety, the other an owner so gregarious he buys the lagers for supporters and applies the same populist logic to managerial appointments. In a season dominated by the boardroom it has been easy for Liverpool and Newcastle to forget who really shapes their immediate futures and emotions. The reminder that it is not Tom Hicks, George Gillett or Mike Ashley united the clubs at Anfield, though it was a painful awakening for those in black and white.

As Fernando torres and Steven Gerrard sent a statement of intent to Internazionale by inspiring Liverpool's fifth successive win since Barnsley began collecting FA Cup scalps, the club's co-owner, Hicks, issued a statement of his own to deny claims Dubai International Capital would accept 49% of Gillett's stake as a means towards gaining majority control at Anfield. Newcastle's chairman, Chris Mort, meanwhile, sank ever deeper in a directors' seat, while Ashley's chin disappeared beneath an overcoat as black as his team's performance and aura.

Owners have finance on their minds, not the natural talent to inspire or the tactical acumen to succeed or fail. Anfield illustrated that perfectly.

Seven league games into the "Third Coming" of Keegan, Newcastle have taken two points from a possible 21 and now lie three points above the relegation zone. They undoubtedly possess superior individual talent to every team beneath them but, when not even Keegan can galvanise passion and confidence - and, for all the manager's tactical shortcomings, he is not bereft in that department - the club are in serious danger of implosion.

Pressure that has broken Keegan in the past, and which Ashley must have considered when seduced by sentimentality in January, is growing on Newcastle. Home games with Fulham, Reading and Sunderland could be crucial. The man himself is showing no sign of cracking. Indeed, in the accurate assessment he gave of Newcastle's weaknesses at Anfield, Keegan spoke with clarity about the task ahead.

"Gerrard has more freedom playing behind Torres and doesn't have to run back 30 or 40 metres," said Ben�tez. "With that freedom and the quality going forward, he is unstoppable."