3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Liverpool 4 Newcastle 0
Boxing Day afternoon ended Liverpool 4 Newcastle 0.
Newcastle getting the first corner and clear chance of the game but once Joselu somehow failed to even get a free header from eight yards on target, it was downhill from there.
Jamaal Lascelles gifted Lovren the opener with a weak defensive header, Liverpool hardly needing a helping hand/head with the form they are in.
The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game, so here goes…
Three worse teams
With this round of fixtures marking the midway point in the Premier League season, it’s remarkable that Newcastle somehow find themselves in the relative comfort of 15th place – a full five points clear of the relegation zone.
Despite suffering their worst start to a league campaign for 120 years and enduring the worst ever points return from their 10 opening home games, Newcastle have somehow managed to scrap their way to a very hard-fought total of 17 points, which, amazingly, has proven more than enough to keep them out of harm’s way.
If the second half of the season plays out any way like the first, a staggering seven teams won’t reach the fabled 40-point cut-off mark that usually sees teams clear of relegation trouble. Far from Rafa’s claims that it will take a “miracle” for Newcastle to survive, it’s almost looking like it’d be miraculous if they didn’t manage to survive when they have Burnley, Fulham and Huddersfield doing them so many favours on a regular basis.
Youth academy graduates have been thin on the ground over the last number of years, so, despite suffering an inevitable heavy defeat, it was heartening to see Sean Longstaff make his league debut for Newcastle at Anfield.
With the young midfielder already 21 years old, the suspicion is that he might not be good enough to make the grade but at least he will be given plenty of chances over the next few weeks to show what he can do.
Longstaff was always likely to be given his first start in the upcoming FA Cup tie against Blackburn but with Ki Sung-yueng now off on international duty for the foreseeable future and Jonjo Shelvey still unavailable, the North Shields native may well find himself thrust into the thick of the league action too, as we head into the New Year. Best of luck, Sean!
Out of form for much of the season, often the first to make way when Rafa introduces substitutes and recently on the receiving end of some criticism from fans, Matt Ritchie has endured a difficult few months.
With Newcastle short of suitable options at wing-back and in wide midfield, Ritchie often finds himself shunted around and forced to do a job for the good of the team, which, in turn, leads to him having to sacrifice any attacking intent in favour of helping maintain team shape and defensive solidity.
While he may struggle to combine his defensive and attacking responsibilities, Ritchie’s hard work, commitment and dedication to the cause are never in doubt. He was one of our better performers on a day to forget and, despite having so much to do defensively, he still managed to whip in three fantastic crosses that his team-mates should have made more of.
Beginning of the end for Rafa?
With the takeover talk having cooled down, recent transfer talks allegedly not going very well, and his uninspiring team plodding along tediously, it’s easy to see how Rafa could be reaching the end of his tether.
The third anniversary of his appointment as Newcastle manager is just a few months away and he could be forgiven for wondering if his whole Tyneside sojourn has been a complete waste of time. While Benitez has won the love and trust of the fans and moulded a limited side into a generally decent and hard-to-beat team, Newcastle are nowhere near where they could be and where he surely imagined they would be at this stage of his tenure.
Now 58 years old and worn down and frustrated by Mike Ashley’s careless neglect of a potentially great club, Rafa may be starting to wonder whether the time has finally come to jump ship. Heartbroken as the Toon Army would be, they certainly wouldn’t begrudge him an opportunity to once again compete at the highest level.
Containment plan fails to contain
While the Boxing Day defeat at Anfield was fairly inevitable, for it to be Rafa’s heaviest defeat as Newcastle manager was a bit of a surprise. Now six points clear at the top of the league, Liverpool’s class is there for all to see this season but Rafa has become a bit of a specialist at setting up to frustrate in games like this and early season encounters against Spurs, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal had seen us play relatively well, contain their respective threats admirably and lose each game just 2-1.
This visit to Anfield, however, was a different proposition entirely – it was men against boys, Champions League against Championship and the result was never ever in doubt. Indeed, we were lucky to restrict them to just four goals as Dubravka made a couple of useful saves and Fernandez made two goal-line clearances, while Yedlin also prevented a certain goal with a back-post clearance in the first half.
Joselu – goals change games
While I’m sure we’re all in agreement that Joselu leading the line for Newcastle United is a symptom of the club’s plight rather than the cause of it, the Spaniard put in a really poor showing on Wednesday afternoon.
He struggled to hold the ball up, gave it away all too easily with some poor touches and should have done much better when he got on the end of great crosses into the box from both Ritchie and Yedlin.
With the score still at 0-0 when Matt Ritchie whipped a great ball in, a goal then could have made all the difference but Joselu even missed the target when better was called for. Similarly, had the former Stoke striker found the net from Yedlin’s right-wing cross at 2-0, the game could have been much tighter and the scoreline could have had a more respectable air.
OK, realistically, we were never likely to do anything other than lose away at Liverpool but, as the old saying goes; ‘goals change games’ and our lack of quality up front meant that Liverpool could push forward unencumbered, without worrying about what we might do to hurt them and, ultimately, ran out comfortable winners.
Much more worryingly, our lack of goal threat means that we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our backs each weekend and under massive pressure to keep a clean sheet if we’re to get anything from games.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Liverpool 4 Newcastle 0
Liverpool: Lovren 11, Salah 47 pen, Shaqiri 79, Fabinho 85
Possession was Liverpool 76% Newcastle 24%
Total shots were Liverpool 16 Newcastle 6
Shots on target were Liverpool 8 Newcastle 2
Corners were Liverpool 10 Newcastle 2
Referee: Graham Scott
Dubravka, Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Murphy 81), Hayden, Diame, Kenedy (Longstaff 73), Muto, Joselu
Woodman, Perez, Rondon, Manquillo, Schar
Crowd: 53,318 (Newcastle 3,000)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the 4-0 defeat – Read HERE)
(After 4-0 hammering Rafa Benitez reveals no signings lined up for January – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport pundits say Mohamed Sala cheated to help Liverpool beat Newcastle – Read HERE)
(Sky Sports pundit says Rafa has to be given January transfer cash if Newcastle are to avoid relegation – Read HERE)
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