LFC Toronto Match Review: Newcastle 0 – Liverpool 2
Match Review: Newcastle 0 - Liverpool 2
The advertising boards at St James’ Park included one advert for a Turkish hair treatment clinic.
Together with the tribute paid to former Newcastle player Christian Atsu, we couldn’t help thinking of the devastating earthquake which hit Turkey and neighbouring Syria in early February.
While we all pray that the rescue operations lead to the best possible outcomes, we also hope that Newcastle United had themselves felt the tremors of a rampaging Liverpool side which picked up where it had left off at the Merseyside derby the previous weekend.
Newcastle have been progressing in leaps and bounds. They are to play the final of the Carabao Cup next weekend, aiming to end a 68-year drought for a major trophy.
In the English Premier League, they are in 4th place, having suffered only one loss before Saturday, at Anfield last August.
Liverpool is still the only team to have defeated the Magpies in the league this season. In fact, after this Saturday encounter, the Reds have now done the league double with a second win against the Tyneside club that was effectively secured in the first 20 minutes of the match.
It was far from that obvious during the initial exchanges which saw Newcastle, carried by a raucous Toon Army, relentlessly pressing forward.
They had one big chance to open the score as early as the 4th minute when Miguel Almiron got himself into decent space behind Liverpool’s backline, collecting a dangerously clever through-ball from Allan Saint-Maximin for a one-on-one with Alisson Becker.
But our Brazilian keeper once again showed why he is the best in the world in those situations and blocked the Newcastle forward’s shot.
Turning it around
Then all of a sudden, just like Liverpool look to have transformed themselves over the past fortnight, the game itself was turned on a dime.
On the 10th minute, a Trent Alexander-Arnold pass from the half-way line found Darwin Nunez just outside the D of Newcastle’s penalty box.
Control with right boot, rebound on the chest (which Newcastle desperately tried to make believe it was a handball) before emphatically firing past Nick Pope. A sumptuous goal that meant a lot to the Uruguayan in view of his equally emphatic celebrations.
This Trent assist inevitably brought us back a flood of fond memories. Perhaps though not to Gareth Southgate who was spotted in the St James’ Park stands.
Five minutes later, Trent was back at it again with another inviting cross from the right towards Nunez. Kieran Trippier was mightily relieved for his sliding interception into a corner. Are you still not watching Gareth?
Seizing the momentum, Liverpool forged a second goal just a few minutes later.
Mo Salah exquisitely lofted the ball from just outside the penalty box to Cody Gakpo. The Dutchman controlled with his right boot before pivoting a shot past Nick Pope.
Two goals in two games for Gakpo, both from an out-and-out striker position. Who said he is not at his best as a number 9 type forward???
Mea culpa: we did. This shows the difference between us and Jurgen Klopp who saw that Gakpo can play as such. We just needed the patience for him to get going.
Punching the meanest defence
Two goals in less than 20 minutes against the meanest defence in the league so far. Newcastle had bagged only 13 goals in 22 matches before Liverpool arrived in town. As they like to say in economics and politics, the green shoots of recovery are now visible for the Reds.
More importantly, the triumvirate of Nunez - Gakpo - Salah now looks to be clicking. Dare we say they’ll be instrumental in whatever damage Liverpool end up inflicting for the rest of the season. But in the meanwhile, let’s hope that Nunez’s shoulder injury is not a serious one.
If Newcastle were shaken at that point, the stirring up was still to come: Nick Pope was red carded for handling the ball way outside his penalty box while trying to clear from a dangerously on-rushing Salah.
Newcastle are not in 4th place by chance and they demonstrated it by creating decent chances to claw their way back.
Curiously, they played better and more cohesively when down to 10 men and hit the woodwork twice. Liverpool conceding 5 corners in the first half also shows that this was far from being a one-sided affair.
On the other hand, the Reds launched counter-attack after counter-attack, one of their favourite weapons. It was great to see they still revel in it.
The scoreline could have ended with bigger digits especially after Diogo Jota and Bobby Firmino were introduced in the second half.
Jota had at least 3 good chances to put the ball at the back of the net while Firmino was a whisker away from connecting with a header from the Portuguese to prod the ball in. A little bit rusty after such a long absence but we trust things will eventually gel as they did before.
Andy Robertson himself had a glorious chance of making it game, set and match when clear through on the 75th. Instead, he made the wrong decision of passing the ball back to Salah.
Things look very different now
In his post match interview, Klopp lamented the missed chances and said we should have done a better job of taking advantage of a 10-men Newcastle. Not the perfect performance he assessed but still qualified both goals as perfect by themselves.
Let’s hope we have seen a new frontline which will now be terrorising the opposition, with Jota and Firmino ready to provide coverage whenever needed.
Defence maestro Virgil Van Dijk was back in the heart of our backline and had a stabilising influence on Joe Gomez. In fact, VVD would have such effect on any defending partner of his.
In midfield, young Stefan Bajcetic again put in an incredible shift and Captain Hendo bossed everyone around as he is used to.
Man of the Match Alisson Becker probably played the biggest part in this win. Without his saves, Liverpool would not have ended up with a clean sheet which was the foundation of the 3 points collected.
That’s not all. We are still left with the icing on the cake… the impending return of Luis Diaz.
It is said that one week is a long time in football. Some 10 days ago, we were hearing those ridiculous armageddon talks of Klopp walking away because Liverpool won’t qualify for the Champions League,
Today it’s more like the Reds are now strong contenders for a top 4 qualifying spot. Go figure how things can turn around so quickly in the wacky world of the EPL.
In 1990, then Geordie boy superstar Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne indulged himself in a cringy pop song, “Fog on the Tyne”.
For its part, the recent Mersey fog which had surrounded the Red half of the city now appears to be dissipating away.
Brilliant write up!