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Newcastle United 2, Liverpool 2: First Thoughts

A penalty, red card, and equaliser in Liverpool's favour just before half time should have brought Liverpool the necessary advantages to secure victory in the second half.

Liverpool's second-half performances are as funny as this picture.
Liverpool's second-half performances are as funny as this picture.
Julian Finney

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Newcastle United 2 Cabaye 23', Dummet 56'
Liverpool 2 Gerrard (pen) 42', Sturridge 72'

  • Welcome back to the Liverpool matchday squad Aly Cissokho, Glen Johnson, and Joe Allen. Allen had to settle for the bench while the other two returnees started and it was Cissokho's first league start of the season. Johnson settled in quite well early on considering his absence but Cissokho's early covering defensive work to bail out Sakho wasn't the sign of better things to come as he looked rusty. Interestingly, Newcastle attack down the wings quite often with a preference for the left side but in the first fifteen minutes, Newcastle seemed intent to attack down the right side although the left side seemed to grow in influence as the first half progressed.

  • Liverpool dominated possession in the early stages but Newcastle controlled the ball after the first quarter of an hour to be virtually even by after 32 minutes or so. Ben Arfa was positioned upfront as a false 9 or an 8.5 depending on whether you're using Rodgers vision. His ability to drop deep into a more natural attacking midfield position created an advantage in midfield for Newcastle who seemed confident after Yohan Cabaye's opener. Cabaye, Tioté, and Sissoko is a far more mobile combination than Gerrard and Henderson. While Newcastle are generally a more direct proposition with players who can play, the midfield pressing from Liverpool was problematic and contributed to going behind.

  • What do you need when you're a goal down? A goal of course but if there's a sequence of events to snare an equaliser then it's the penalty-red card combination with a slice of confidence from your penalty taker. Suarez was through on goal and a tame but clumsy challenge from Newcastle's last man, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, left the referee with a few options. Red card and a penalty. Up stepped a nonchalant Steven Gerrard to join 23 other EPL players in the 100 goal club and he placed the ball where he usually likes to do on the left side. Statzone time. Prior to today's penalty, Steven Gerrard's last five penalties were as follows: 3 to the left (100% success rate) and 2 to the right (50% success rate). Nonchalant penalty and nonplussed celebration from the Liverpool captain. Just before half time too.

  • Liverpool ended the first half in control of possession and youngster Paul Dummet was subbed on for Sissoko, relieving Liverpool's midfield from pressure. Second half dominance is a Liverpool rarity this season but the match was perfectly set up for Liverpool to reverse that trend but Paul Dummet had other ideas. Set pieces. Again. The second half was largely insipid by Liverpool but Suarez once again refused to accept defeat. An assist for Sturridge and hitting the bar signalled his intent to make a definitive mark on this match.

  • Liverpool had a couple of good chances to secure a winner but Newcastle still carried danger throughout the second half. Liverpool were largely unimpressive and Coutinho's creativity in the final third will be welcome on his return. However, Liverpool's number ten won't sort out the midfield muddle or the set pieces that disturb our own peace. We're top of the league at the moment but even if Suarez's late freekick secured victory, the feeling of disappointment cannot be shaken off. Performances need to improve.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season. To share your thoughts on the goings on elsewhere in football today, head on over to the Saturday open thread.

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