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Newcastle 2, Liverpool 0: Sleepy Reds Punished


Michael Regan/Getty Images

Newcastle 2 Skrtel (OG) 68', Wijnaldum 94'
Liverpool 0

Liverpool failed to replicate their midweek performance against Southampton and paid the price for it at a loud St. James' Park, falling 2-0 to Newcastle after a dreadful team display.

Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana returned to the bench, and as a result, Liverpool's attack struggled to get going early on. Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino looked incompatible again, and their lack of understanding let Newcastle off the hook for conceding too much midfield space. Jordon Ibe broke through the midfield on numerous occasions, but without supporting runs, he reverted to playing weak balls into the box to no one in particular.

The Reds barely pressed Newcastle, surprising observers who watched them mercilessly harry their last few opponents. Television announcers suggested that the lack of pressing was a ploy to lure Newcastle forward and prevent them from playing long balls, which would be a difficult tactic to understand.

Newcastle's defense came in as one of the weakest, most laughable units in the league, and the way to take advantage of that fragility was to press them and force mistakes early rather than sit back and allow them to gain confidence. Why lure Newcastle forward, allowing them to push out of their defensive zone, if they were always going to jump back into their long-balling shell at the first scent of trouble anyway? Instead of overrunning the hosts from the opening whistle, Liverpool absorbed pressure for 70 minutes before trying to kick things into gear when the game was already past them. There wasn't any reason to leave the gegenpressing blueprint, and the deviation cost Liverpool dearly.

The one big first half chance for the visitors came from a corner, but Benteke ballooned his point-blank effort over the bar. Meanwhile, Newcastle inexplicably threatened the Reds on the counter attack, as Georginio Wijnaldum bamboozled the midfield base of Lucas and Joe Allen to spring his team forward.

Newcastle began the second half with an almost defiant level of belief. The relegation zone bound Magpies knew the match was there for the taking, and smartly darted forward at select moments without leaving themselves too vulnerable at the back.

Jürgen Klopp's answer was to put Lallana and Sturridge on. Liverpool immediately poured numbers forward, pushing to break the deadlock. But while Liverpool had perhaps tried to lure Newcastle out of position with their relaxed press earlier in the match, it was the Reds who were tricked and caught out by a counter attack in the 69th minute with Wijnaldum deflecting a shot off Martin Skrtel and past Simon Mignolet to open the scoring.

In a controversial moment in the 80th minute, Alberto Moreno scored after running onto an over-the-top ball, but was ruled offside. However, replays showed that he was clearly onside and the goal should have stood.

Newcastle doubled the trouble in extra time with a free flowing counter attack that started with a possession win in the midfield and ended with Wijnaldum chipping Mignolet. It only made sense on a day of role reversals that it was Newcastle scoring such a brilliant goal.

Liverpool will have a difficult time swallowing this defeat, and hopefully it will serve as a learning experience in not letting up against anyone in the Premier League. The Reds will have a chance to get their league ambitions back on track against West Brom next weekend.

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