Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Liverpool dominated possession in the first 30 minutes as expected, recording 2 shots compared to the magpies 4. Newcastle played more out of their shell than I expected, stringing together passes through the liverpool midfield allowing them to attack Alisson’s goal. Callum Wilson had the best chance of the lot, making his way inside the 6 yard box before having his shot blocked.
Instead of playing in a 5-4-1 formation and sitting back, they played more aggressive football, starting with a 3-4-3 formation allowing the wingbacks Yedlin and Ritchie to burst deep into the Liverpool half. Liverpool retained their usual 4-3-3 formation, Fabinho again filling in the CB role and a midfield of both experience and youth with Henderson, Milner and Jones trying to provide dangerous balls in behind the Newcastle back 3.
Salah had a great chance in the 34th minute, just staying onside and places it towards the far corner but Darlow made a fantastic save to palm the ball past the post.
A midfield scrap involving Firmino, Milner and Longstaff resulted in a loose ball for Firmino to gather just outside the Newcastle box. A cute pass into Salah's feet was intercepted by Yedlin who slid in clearing the ball away for a throw-in. Just before half-time, Firmino had a great chance to give his side the lead but his header was saved by the so-far brilliant Karl Darlow who was able to quickly react and put it behind for a corner.
As Paul Tierney blew for half-time, Steve Bruce would be feeling pleased about his side’s sterling work in the first 45 minutes. They had plenty of chances which will give them optimism going into the last 45 mins of 2020. Liverpool finished the half with 2 shots on target compared to Newcastle’s one. An entertaining watch!
The Toon-army would be licking their lips at the prospect of ending Liverpool's 5 straight wins against them, certainly a positive they took from the first-half was being able to delve into the Liverpool half and took 6 shots at the Liverpool goal.
They would be encouraged knowing that almost 50% of Newcastle’s goals were scored in the last 15 mins of the match which goes hand-in-hand with Liverpool’s vulnerability in the last 15 mins when they concede the majority of their goals, so if Newcastle held the reds at bay then they could capitalise towards the final minutes and snatch a victory.
Early on in the second-half, Yedlin, who carries a huge threat with the ball owing to his pace, picked the ball up just outside the centre-circle and was up-ended by Fabinho on his way to the penalty area. Fabinho received a yellow but the magpies were unable to capitalise on a set-piece in a good position. Joelinton made an attempt at a bicycle-kick in the 51st minute but ended up making a fool of himself on the ground inside the Liverpool box.
Liverpool posed a threat from corners, even without the 6’6 Dutchman, Sadio Mane found the side netting at the near post 10 minutes into the second-half. A fantastic chance came about for Salah again in the 65th minute. A mazy run from Firmino and a great pass to Salah outside the box allowed him to isolate a defender in the box, he took the ball on his left foot and placed it outside the post again! Opportunity spurned. Only minutes later, Firmino had a great chance from a corner at the back post. The ball looped over Darlow’s head and fell upon Firmino who simply missed the target, another great opportunity wasted.
With 20 minutes to go in the second-half, Liverpool looked a real threat and were creating chances, however, Newcastle were always a threat on the counter and looked to capitalise on Liverpool’s overinvestment in a goal. A long awaited return in the 72nd minute was Thiago, making his 3rd appearance since his signing in the summer transfer window.
Liverpool culminated their third yellow card with a late challenge by Phillips on Joelinton, allowing Newcastle another chance to swing the ball into the reds box. A chance was created from Phillips’ error as Clark headed towards the far post but Alisson was able to push it behind for a corner.
Fabian Schar made a miraculous goal-line clearance to deny Mane from close range. Liverpool were pushing for a late winner against an ever-fatiguing Newcastle side. A corner in the 88th minute provided the reds a potential opportunity however Darlow came up again to deny Firmino a goal.
The result here gives Liverpool a point, extending their lead in the premier league to 3 points. However this now allows Manchester United, with a game-in-hand, to go joint first with a win over Burnley at Home which is yet to be scheduled. A poor result for Liverpool yet a positive outcome for Newcastle. Liverpool have now failed to beat 4 out of the current bottom 6 which is a clear point of improvement which they need to identify if they are to win back to back premier league campaigns. A slightly dull end to a year like no other.
Photo credit: Sky Sports.