Realistically, the Premier League has yet to show any of the great superiority we were warned to fear on promotion after 15 months away. Ahead of Sunday, our only defeats had come after being reduced to ten men or against fellow promotees, but this was an opponent that really threatened to test those credentials.
Liverpool have been a bit patchy at times this season, but an attack of Sturridge, Mane, Salah and the restored Coutinho looked ominous to say the least against our usual plan of contain, counter, strike. The slightly more adventurous midfield pairing of Merino and Shelvey suggested United were also interested in going for it, although the front pairing of Perez and Joselu maybe created less concern among the Scousers.
The game was bizarre in that it flowed constantly from end to end without creating too many efforts of note. There was a frantic moment when Wijnaldum got on the end of a corner but directed it against the post, before panic set in as you waited for the inevitable goal, but somehow it was frantically cleared. Wijnaldum took this as his cue to revert to complete anonymity, as he did so endearingly in every away game he ever played for us.
The respite didn’t last long though, as the visitors took the lead spectacularly on the half hour. Coutinho picked up a half clearance 30 yards out and was given space to advance and set himself before firing an unstoppable strike into the top corner. The standing off and allowing a dangerous player to pick his spot from distance has been punished by Mooy and Shaquiri this season prior to this, so maybe something to work on.
You had to worry at this point how this one was heading, given that speculative efforts from distance by Ritchie were all we’d mustered so far and the front two were completely uninvolved in the game, a Liverpool avalanche seemed more likely than a swift response.
Hearteningly, the swift response was delivered, although it was equally sublime and ridiculous.
Shelvey’s defence-splitting through ball was magnificent, picking the spot between the centre-halves and sending Joselu away on goal. It has to be said the Spaniard did everything he could to cock this up, delaying getting his shot off at the right time and allowing the pursuing Matip to catch up and put his foot in. Fortunately, the defender’s intervention saw him knock the ball off Jossy’s shin and bobble off at an angle that beat Mignolet and crept inside the far post. A truly rubbish finish to contrast Coutinho’s worldy – but one we were delighted to celebrate.
The second half saw Liverpool’s greater possession cancelled out by solid defending, with Yedlin outstanding throughout, zooming back to snuff out any attack daft enough to come down their left and regularly cutting inside to support the centre-backs. Clark did have a moment of madness as his poor clearance presented Sturridge with a gilt-edged chance, but Elliot did well to block his shot and Salah was on hand to fluff the follow up.
For all the scousers’ possession, United looked more than comfortable second half, with Shelvey and Ritchie both industrious throughout. Perez was woeful, having one of his trademark ‘lightweight’ games and his replacement with Diame was perhaps long overdue. Diame had our best chance to snatch the win when a corner found its way to him in injury time, but his scuffed shot was deflected to safety by Lovren, with a slight hint of handball.
A draw was by no means a disappointment against an established ‘top sixer’ and overall this was one of those days that just feels good throughout. Liverpool’s fans did their popularity no harm with a notable donation to the fans food bank and a show of appreciation for our manager. They were well topped though, by the latest, biggest display from Gallowgate flags, advocating full support for our gaffer as he continues to excel under the limitations of the regime.
Speaking of the regime, it seems to have been a red herring that some woman who helped sell/buy Man City was sitting in the stands today, with several conclusions being drawn about great changes afoot. I am going on record here as saying that the day this club leaves Mike Ashley’s control will be so magnificently cathartic that it just won’t do to get carried away with rumour, hope and expectation, and I will be ignoring any subsequent speculation until the day the story of the sale breaks. Don’t despair, that day will come at some point.
Until it does arrive, we can only hope the committed, the competent and the downright great at our club, are allowed to continue delivering pleasant days like this one.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Liverpool 1
Newcastle: Joselu 36
Liverpool: Coutinho 29
Possession was Liverpool 68% Newcastle 32%
Total shots were Liverpool 17 Newcastle 8
Shots on target were Liverpool 2 Newcastle 5
Corners were Liverpool 5 Newcastle 1
Referee: Craig Pawson
Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo, Ritchie, Shelvey, Merino (Hayden 74), Atsu (Diame 90+1), Perez, Joselu (Gayle 79)
Darlow, Lejeune, Murphy, Gamez
Crowd: 52,303 (approx 3,000 Liverpool)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
(Read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Liverpool 1 HERE)
(Garth Crooks says Liverpool should have ‘smashed’ Newcastle. Read it HERE)
(Read Rafa’s post-match reaction HERE)
(Read Jurgen Klopp’s post-match reaction HERE)
(Danny Murphy pushes Jonjo Shelvey for England HERE)
(Read the fan player ratings of all Newcastle players HERE)
(Read Alan Shearer’s reaction to the match HERE)