Newcastle 2 Liverpool 0 Sunday 6 December 4pm
Goals: OG 69 mins, Wijnaldum 90+3
I didn’t see this one coming.
After two real low point non-performances in the past couple of games, interspersed with rumblings of discontent and admissions of cluelessness, hope was at something of a premium ahead of this game.
With the appointment of Klopp galvanising Liverpool into an ominous prospect, arriving off the back of wins at Man City and Chelsea in their previous two away games, not to mention smashing six at Southampton in the league cup midweek.
The amount of people I spoke to who had the same plan as me was astonishing. Stick it out until either half-time or Liverpool went 3-0 up, then have the rest of your time in the pub, get home early and kick the cat, or do whatever else you rather would.
Just as long as you vote with your feet and avoid letting the latest shambles crush your spirit further.
Well, not today.
I’m not going to make this out to be a great performance of corner-turning proportions when it wasn’t. The fact of the matter is that Liverpool were below par, with the omission of Sturridge probably a wrong move from Klopp, and Newcastle were still lacking in final third creativity in my opinion.
What we did see throughout was more guts and determination from United, closing down possession, sticking tightly to opponents’ runs and harrying the Scousers off the ball at every opportunity.
This type of grit did not make for a spectacular first half, but some encouraging individual signs were emanating from the home side. Mbemba and Dummett were immense at the back, with the latter’s rip snorting tackle on Firmino early in the second half drawing a massive roar of appreciation from the crowd.
My personal choice for man of the match would be Anita, who was all over the Liverpool midfield, tracking back, clearing up trouble and generally buzzing about to great effect.
I wonder though, how much the inclusion of Siem de Jong influenced this result. His contribution to the play was unspectacular, but it was evident to all that someone was trying to lead the team, with audible encouragement from the Dutchman indicative of the type of character he is, and we need. Much has been said/written about Coloccini, who played well today but is surely lacking as a leading influence.
If de Jong could be relied on to shoulder this responsibility, perhaps Colo could focus more on defending and produce more displays like today, or his powerful showings at Bournemouth and Man Utd, and less of the clown shoe impressions of recent weeks.
De Jong also had a positive impact on Papiss Cisse, who provided an excellent outlet up front and constantly seemed to want the ball. With Mitrovic failing to even appear from the bench, and displaying many negative signs I was warned of from Belgium pre-season, there must be doubts already as to whether our marquee summer signing has a future at SJP.
Goalless at half time then and many probably had to ring the wife to say they actually wouldn’t be home early after all.
With the same level of application evident after the break, you couldn’t help but wonder if this could turn out to be our day. I would still maintain though that our team is bereft of attacking ideas.
Do we go wide and swing balls over?
Do we use pace through the middle?
For me our attacking play seems to largely consist of forward charges from Janmaat supplemented by Sissoko’s infuriating habit of pointing to other people for a pass he’s not personally interested in. When he does show the odd flash of attention, his link-ups with Wijnaldum are hugely successful, as proved to be the case with the opener. Sissoko slid the ball into the box to find the on rushing Gini, who seemed to get in a muddle but recovered to beat his defender, albeit sending him slightly wide. He turned and thrashed it back across goal where a helpful deflection off the knee of Skrtel completely wrong footed Mignolet. Bedlam.
It was far from plain sailing from here as Liverpool belatedly introduced Sturridge for the ineffective Benteke and looked more likely to get back in the game. Sturridge missed by miles with his best chance, then Moreno was flagged offside as he planted a magnificent side foot volley past Elliot that will have put the connoisseur in mind of Shearer’s famous goal v Aston Villa and Peter Schmeichel in finer times. Turns out the flag was wrong too, but them’s the breaks.
With Liverpool still threatening in injury time, things were getting a tad anxious when suddenly it happened again. Gouffran cleared an attack out to Sissoko on the right, who utterly murdered his man with pace before slotting a magnificent through ball to Wijnaldum in an acre of space. His deft flick past the onrushing Mignolet brought a colossal roar of elated relief, as even we accepted we’d won at 2-0 after 93 minutes.
A fine day then, but overall caution should be exercised.
I wonder if Coloccini, Cisse et al will produce these performances again next week, or when less vaunted opposition arrive at SJP?
With our position still below the relegation line, challenges remain, and if nothing else today has reminded all that irrespective of our crappy transfer policy, we have the capability in our squad to be so much more than we’ve had to tolerate.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Possession was 40% Newcastle and 60% Liverpool
Total shots was 6 for Newcastle and Liverpool 10
Shots on target was Newcastle 1 and Liverpool 1
While corners was Newcastle 2 and Liverpool 7
Team: Elliot, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Dummett, Colback (Gouffran 77), Anita, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, de Jong (Perez 68), Cisse (Thauvin 82)
Unused Subs: Darlow, Mbabu, Sterry, Mitrovic
Ref: Andre Marriner
(To contribute like longstanding columnist Jamie, send in your original articles for our website to [email protected] and share them with the world)