The Final Analysis For Newcastle United
Liverpool v Newcastle Match Report
Liverpool 2 Newcastle 1 Sunday 11 May 3pm
After winning against Cardiff, the pressure on Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew had lessened somewhat, and prior to Liverpool’s spectacular collapse against Crystal Palace, numerous pundits were predicting a rugby score.
Certainly Newcastle, having limped to safety in the second half of the season, would pose no significant threat against free-scoring Liverpool, whose record at Anfield in the opening 20 minutes is more than intimidating.
For the third time in Newcastle’s poor run Pardew attempted to go with a back five, with Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini all lining up for the Magpies (still no space for Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa), with Mathieu Debuchy and Massadio Haidara as wing backs.
The midfield was the standard four of Yoan Gouffran, Cheick Tiote, Vurnon Anita and Moussa Sissoko. Shola Ameobi, in what was likely his last game for the club, started up front on his own.
Liverpool persisted with their midfield diamond, with Joe Allen on the left and Jordan Henderson on the right. Jon Flanagan continued at left back with Daniel Agger replacing Mamadou Sakho in the centre of defence. Record-breaking duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge continued up front.
LIMP START BY REDS
The predicted Anfield blitz never really came. Having as-good-as-surrendered the league title against Palace, there was a very strange atmosphere among the players and fans. Newcastle countered Liverpool’s lightning pace by having the three centre backs sit very deep, not allowing runs in behind. In fact, despite rapid Raheem Sterling – who played at the tip of the diamond – making seven dribbles, Liverpool only made four through balls, and only one in the first half.
With Newcastle defending so deep, the hold up play by Ameobi was vital if the Magpies were to get a toe hold in the game. The Nigeria striker played like a man trying to earn a new contract, winning several headers and making a general nuisance of himself. When Newcastle did look to pass it out of Liverpool’s high press, they were very compact. Helped by Allen’s lack of mobility Newcastle were able to build some attacks from the back, especially using one twos with either full back.
Ameobi, due to leave the club after 13 years at St James’s Park, signalled the threat with an early header.
NEWCASTLE’S WIDTH A DANGER
The big issue with Liverpool’s midfield diamond formation in midfield is that it lacks width with Henderson making up for it with his defensive work rate but Allen, on Liverpool’s left, not as mobile.
This meant wingbacks Debuchy and Haidara both found joy bombing forward, Debuchy more so (a massive 49% of Newcastle’s attacks came down their right hand side). It was some slick passing between Haidara and Gouffran which led to Skrtel’s own goal, the Magpies counter attacking with real verve down the left hand side. With three centre backs it meant midfielders Gouffran And Sissoko could both tuck inside slightly and even underlap from the attacking full backs.
Defensively Haidara and Debuchy both offer different skills, the latter is probably one of the best tacklers in the league (he made seven against Liverpool) whereas the former made just two tackles but racked up four interceptions, between them Liverpool looked rather toothless going forward.
TIOTE A LIABILTY
There can be no doubting Tiote’s effort, he was coming down with cramp after just 70 minutes, but Liverpool’s midfield and forwards were simply too slick for his combative style of defence. For the first game he started this season, the Ivorian made zero tackles. He forced three turnovers but his foul count (five) was far too high, with referee Phil Dowd coming down very hard on him. He didn’t even manage to make any interceptions.
Anita, the more quieter of the duo, made two tackles and one interception but was dispossessed twice. A clumsy foul by the Dutchman saw Suarez attempt an audacious quick free kick which sailed over Tim Krul but Dowd brought play back, Newcastle still holding onto a 1-0 lead.
Much has already been spoken this summer about a need to overhaul the squad and Tiote’s place is almost a certainty (after all he is vice captain) but this was one of his worst showings in a Newcastle shirt, with the only statistic helping him is the 59 passes (a team high) he made at 85% accuracy. He also racked up the most touches – at least he never goes missing during a game.
Minutes after Suarez’s free kick, Gouffran coming inside with a well timed run should have doubled the Magpies lead but not for the first time this season he failed when one-on-one with a goalkeeper. Ameobi’s pass was inch perfect for the Frenchman.
After turning in one of their worst performances all season in the first half (the only real chance of note was Sturridge heading wide from six yards out) Liverpool were bound to react in the second half.
Flanagan, who had struggled in the first half but still made three tackles, was forced off at half time with an injury. Aly Cissokho came on to replace him and the left back also struggled, with Newcastle attacking down the right time and again.
Sterling in particular came alive in the second half, drifting in front of the back three and generally causing a nuisance of himself. He made three key passes, second only to Steven Gerrard, and was fouled four times, winning the free kick that would prove so crucial as Newcastle struggled to cope with the youngster.
In the 59th minute, with Liverpool struggling to break down the Magpies, Rodgers saw Allen was struggling to have any real impact on the game with Liverpool bossing possession (It ended 64% to 36%). He was withdrawn for the much more attack minded Philipe Coutinho. The Brazillian was very busy, with 45 touches in half an hour, but it wasn’t him who made the real difference, it was some shoddy tackling.
Newcastle decided to capitulate and in the 62nd minute a sloppily defended free kick saw Agger put Liverpool level. Two minutes later an almost carbon copy free kick saw Sturridge at the back post calmly finish beyond Krul. Up to that point Newcastle had looked so composed the away fans had even stopped their anti-Pardew chants.
After the second free kick a sarcastic comment from Ameobi, who had played well up to then, got him sent off and all of a sudden Newcaslte looked ragged. Pardew waited a few minutes and subbed on Luuk De Jong but the Dutchman didn’t get involved with Newcastle firmly pegged back in their own half now playing 4-4-1.
Sammy Ameobi came on for Gouffran and at least threatened Liverpool, making two dribbles but Rodgers showed his pragmatic side after going ahead, addressing his imbalance in midfield by subbing on Lucas for Sturridge in the 80th minute.
With Newcastle pushing for an equalizer Suarez threatened to break away but a clumsy tackle by Paul Dummett, subbed on for an impressive Haidara, saw him sent off very harshly. Liverpool, despite being at home, had smashed and grabbed a victory.
If he had not got himself sent off, Shola Ameobi was in contention, but once again it was Debuchy who was the stand out. The former Lille man was inspired all game, not just with his Herculean tackle count but his defensive work was so good, right sided centre back Taylor had very little to do (see below).
His partnership with Sissoko has come on leaps and bounds this season. His only real weakness was his poor pass accuracy, just 69%. He was often caught looking long, either to Sissoko or Ameobi ,but neither are known for their pace. His sloppy yellow card in the first half for time wasting could have seen Newcastle reduced to eight men by the end.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the defeat was the manner of it. Newcastle’s three defenders did well, Williamson making four tackles, Coloccini two. Interestingly Steven Taylor was almost a statistical absence. The maligned local lad, preferred over Yanga-Mbiwa, managed just 14 touches of the ball in his 73 minutes, easily the lowest of any player. He also made just two interceptions and one clearance. No tackles. He also gave away two fouls and didn’t even get involved in an aerial duel.
With defending from set pieces a consistent issue for the Magpies all season, the game was proof Pardew hasn’t solved many of the issues. His formation gamble however did look to be working until ill discipline got in the way. Once Liverpool were ahead and Newcastle were down to 10 men, never mind nine, there was only going to be one winner given how well the Red can play keep ball.
Newcastle: Krul, Steven Taylor (De Jong 73), Coloccini, Williamson, Debuchy, Haidara, Tiote (Dummett 82), Anita, Gouffran (Sammy Ameobi 78), Sissoko, Shola
Unused Subs: Elliot, Santon, Mapou, Satka
Ref: Phil Dowd
Crowd: 44,724 (2,800 Newcastle)
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